By Nate Smith Times Herald
The Washington Times-Herald
---- — Mcduffy Agledor loves his new school. He has adjusted well from his school in Miami. He has friends, walks the hall and has even joined a club.
What makes this amazing is that Agledor is originally from Haiti and has only been speaking English for a little over two years. He is one of several new students at Washington High School that are not that far removed from their homeland. They are the children of Washington’s newest residents, eager to start a new life. There are seven students in Washington schools that came directly from Haiti in this year alone. Agledor, 17, is a junior and one of the first.
“This school is much bigger,” Agledor said when asked if he liked his new school.
The story of Agledor and his family is a lot like many of the residents that have come in the past year to work at the Perdue processing plant. Agledor, along with his mother and stepfather, lived in Florida and earlier this year, they heard of jobs at Perdue. They moved to Washington and soon after, Agledor enrolled at WHS and was soon put in the school’s English Language Learners program. He learned English from mostly watching American TV. Agledor is almost fluent in English from only a little over two years of watching TV.
“I think Mcduffy is pretty independent,” WHS ELL teacher Paula Counsil said. “The first day I met him, he said his English was pretty good and didn’t need much help. I was amazed after I found out he had been (in the U.S.) for a little over two years. He’s proven he was right.”
The biggest trouble Agledor is having at WHS is not in the classroom.
“You want me to tell you what the hardest thing for him is? Doing the combination lock,” WHS ELL assistant Leonard Counsil laughed.
Agledor has also joined the WHS NJROTC and started wearing the uniform and participating in drills with the other cadets. He was in an Army JROTC program in his school in Florida. Last week, he stood with his fellow cadets at the corps’ annual inspection at the Hatchet House.
“Yeah, I enjoy that,” Agledor said about his uniform.
Capt. Neil May, senior NJROTC said Agledor is adjusting well in the corps and the new routine.
“The cadets have welcomed him with open arms and he did very well during the recent inspection,” May said. “We emphasize the Golden Rule here and we embrace diversity as a strength; not only as a unit, but as a school, community and nation; that it should be celebrated!”
After high school, Agledor wants to join the Army. He hopes to find a job here in Washington that would help his fellow Haitians get along in their new city with his English skills. But Agledor is the exception and not the rule when it comes to English skills of the new Haitian students. Last week, two new Haitian students enrolled at WHS, brothers Stanley and Pierre Fils (pronounced FEES) Phillipe. Along with sister Louenda and brother Jeff, the family came to Washington after being in Miami two weeks removed from Haiti.
“They arrived in Washington at 2 a.m. and their father registered them at 10 a.m.,” Paula said.
The boys are considered freshmen at WHS and are considered in ELL terms as Level 1, the lowest level of English fluency. Haitians speak a form of Haitian Creole, which is derived from French but not like the French one learns in high school. A lot of their time is spent in Counsil’s class, learning basic words in English. Agledor was used as a translator to interview the two for this article. They told him they have really liked it here in Washington.
“Oui,” both Stanley and Pierre Fils said.
Paula, who was tasked to start the program for Washington schools, said it has really helped to have Agledor here to help with the Phillipe brothers.
“I told them to come to my house every Saturday so I can help them,” Agledor said.
The Washington ELL program began many years ago when Hispanic families moved here to work at Perdue. In the past few years, other nationalities have come to Washington for steady work and a better life than their homelands, like Burma and now Haiti. Last year, WHS graduated its first Burmese student and there are several who came as refugees from the country known as Myanmar. At the elementary level, Griffith elementary has three Haitian students, one includes Phillipe’s brother Jeff.
And there are more coming, according to the Counsils. Washington administrators have started discussions on how better to serve the new Haitian student population. But Washington has become home, even with the unseasonably cold weather.
“I feel better now because I first came, I didn’t know if I would like it,” Agledor said.