In one corner of Dinora Padrino’s level two English class, French-speaking Agnes Manga, recent Eritrean arrival Awet Berhane and Chinese immigrant Wang Wei sit at a table taking notes while two other students, Henry Sánchez of El Salvador and Laura Bernal of Bolivia, proudly display their team project on a big white banner.
Regardless of what they speak at home, everyone’s here to learn English — and they’re doing it with pride and determination.
This mini-United Nations scene repeats itself every day in dozens of classrooms at Carlos Rosario International Public Charter School, the nation’s first adult charter school and the only one in the District of Columbia devoted to foreign-born immigrants.
“We’re publicly funded, just like any other charter school. The only fee is a $20 ID card and textbooks,” said HollyAnn Freso-Moore, principal of the school’s main Harvard Street campus in Washington’s Columbia Heights neighborhood (the newer 50,000-square-foot Sonia Gutierrez campus in Northeast D.C. was inaugurated in October 2013).
On the last day of August — which also happened to be the first day of classes in the District — Freso-Moore led The Washington Diplomat on a tour of her school, which currently has 2,300 students, up from 1,200 in past years. But over time, the waiting list has dropped from more than 1,000 to around 500.
Carlos Rosario’s students hail from 84 countries, with the most coming from El Salvador, followed by Ethiopia and then Mexico. Their ages range from 17 to 85.
“I once had a 72-year-old and a 17-year-old in the same classroom,” said Freso-Moore, herself an immigrant from English-speaking Guyana. “You can easily have three generations in one class.”
The now-famous school — named after a Puerto Rican activist and educator — began life in 1970 as a small, community-based organization. It eventually came under the umbrella of D.C. Public Schools and served as many as 3,500 students, but closed in 1996 following budget cuts. With leadership from fellow Puerto Rican educator Sonia Gutierrez, the facility was re-established in 1998 as the first taxpayer-funded charter school in the United States exclusively for adults. Over the last 40-plus years, Carlos Rosario has graduated over 70,000 students. Read the whole article…