Gibrielys Delgado was overwhelmed and needed help.

The sophomore at Cleveland’s Max Hayes High School grew up in Puerto Rico in a Spanish-speaking family and moved to Cleveland only a year ago.

With her classes all online because of COVID, it was soon clear that her still-developing English skills just weren’t good enough to keep up.

“Right now it’s critical that we get as many kids as much support as possible,” said Patrick Kearns, executive director of The Refugee Response, a Cleveland non-profit that supports families new to the U.S. The group has also expanded its efforts to help ELL students, most of whom speak Swahili or Arabic, by adding online tutoring and in-person afterschool sessions.

“They have to catch up so much and they’re not starting at the same point as everybody else,” Kearns said.

The Boys and Girls Club of Greater Cleveland, which created six learning centers across Cleveland this school year, placed bilingual staff at two West Side centers, also to help ELL students in those neighborhoods.

For Gibrielys and other students, the pods have provided the extra help they needed. She can raise her hand and receive help instead of having to text a friend or an aunt in Puerto Rico who speaks English.

“I’m doing good,” she said, just two weeks after coming to Esperanza. “I’m doing my work and talking to my teachers and paying attention in class.”

Researchers say it’s too early to know how widespread efforts like the bilingual pods in Cleveland are, or how much effect they will have.

Read the full article about bilingual learning pods by Patrick O'Donnell at The 74.