Aide helps students master new language

Although Evelyn Wakeling moved to the United States from Nicaragua when she was only 3 years old, she still empathizes with students who make the transition at an older age.

"Even though I don't remember struggling to learn English, my mother did," she recalled. "I saw what she had to go through and now she's perfectly bilingual."

And so is Wakeling. She uses her ability to speak fluently in both Spanish and English to help students at the high school make the transition to a new country and a new language.

"More than anything, I try to be a role model for them," she said. "I'm not much older than they are -- I try to show them their English can be as good as mine."

Learning the language can be one of the most important skills students learn.

"English is the doorway to everything right now," Wakeling said. "If they're going to be successful, they've got to learn it. Of course they should also retain their Spanish.

"If you're bilingual, it opens that many more doors for you."

But first, they must get through high school, which presents a series of obstacles ranging from the proficiency exam to the senior projects.

"It's so difficult to learn enough of the language to get through those things," she said. "It can be the biggest challenge."

But she told of one student who moved to Carson City from Mexico as a sophomore and passed all three portions of the proficiency exam as a junior, completed his senior project and graduated with the Millennium Scholarship.

"It's definitely an inspiration to see something like that," Wakeling said. "It feels great."

Wakeling moved to Carson City when she was 6 years old and has seen a significant growth in the number of Hispanics living here since she arrived.

"There were very few of us when my family first moved here," she explained. "If you were Hispanic, you all knew each other. Now, there are so many."

Wakeling, 26, has worked as an instructional assistant for English-as-a-second-language students at Carson High School for seven years. There, she works mostly with Hispanic students but has also served students speaking a variety of languages including Russian.

She married Nathaniel Wakeling three years ago and they have a 2-year-old daughter, Bella.


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