St. Johnsbury Academy will welcome 38 young people from nine countries for the school's annual English as a Second Language (ESL) summer program, which will begin Monday, July 15, and continue through Aug. 21. The program is designed to help participants immerse themselves in learning the English language and receive an introduction to life in America.

This year's program includes students from China, Japan, Nepal, Germany, Mexico, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Saudi Arabia.

"One of the program's goals is to provide international students a full six weeks of immersion in English speaking, listening, reading, and writing skills that they will need in American classrooms," said Bradley Ashley, the Academy's interim ESL Summer School director.

A majority of the 22 boys and 16 girls enrolled in this year's program are entering the Academy as students for the upcoming school year.

"Another key benefit is the exposure the students receive to life in America and life in rural Vermont, as opposed to the large cities where many of these students are from," Ashley explained, calling the program "an excellent introduction to life at the Academy."

A typical program day begins with six hours of in-classroom English and Math instruction. After lunch, the students devote an hour to working on group projects, reaching out to the local community to assist with special events, and preparing for English language exams. The remainder of the day includes a wide range of group activities designed as opportunities for the students to use their English skills in settings that are authentic and help familiarize them with both Vermont and American culture.

Many activities, ranging from camping to visits to local museums and attractions, are organized so that student groups include a variety of nationalities with English being the only common language.

Activities include a four-day trip to Boston, swimming at local ponds and lakes, hikes, camping at Groton State Park, a Vermont Lake Monsters baseball game, and visits to the Shelburne Museum, Dartmouth College, Cabot Creamery and Jay Peak Water Park.

All ESL Summer School participants stay with local families throughout the session.

"Our local host families opening their homes to our ESL students is the most important part of the program," Ashley stressed. "We can teach English grammar and pronunciation in the classroom, but staying with families offers the opportunity to speak English in authentic situations and see American life in action."

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