Student’s persistence in English as a Second Language leads to statewide award

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Khanhthong Sidara was only hoping to improve her language skills a bit by enrolling in English as a Second Language (ESL) classes at Amarillo College, but she quickly became engrossed in the process and set her sights higher.

Her tenacity paid off – literally.

On May 6, the Thailand native was the surprise recipient of an ESL Student Persistence Award courtesy of the Texas Association for Literacy and Adult Education (TALAE), an honor accompanied by a check for $500.

According to the TALAE website, the Persistence Award goes to students in Texas having “demonstrated exceptional determination through their effort, persistence, leadership, and community involvement.”

“At first, I just wanted to learn English to communicate with my children’s teachers or doctors, but then I thought that if I can pass ESL, then maybe I can pass the GED,” Sidara said.

“I only finished the fifth grade in my country, and people there told me that if I didn’t finish high school or college, I’ll never make it. I think now I can make it.”

Ronetta Urton, AC’s assistant ESL coordinator, surprised Sidara by gathering a large group of ESL students in the Ware Student Commons and then summoning the unsuspecting honoree for a festive presentation of the award.

“Khanhthong thought reading and writing would help her be a good mother,” Urton said. “But it turns out that’s not all she wanted. She has a four-inch-thick notebook and re-writes all her class notes every night. She color-codes each of her subjects.

“This is a student who truly takes ownership for her learning. She is the epitome of what the definition of persistence means.”

Now halfway through the requirements for a GED, Sidara hopes to complete the process by next fall.

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