EDCI bridges gap between parents, children’s education with ESL classes

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Caryn Kelly, who teaches EDCI’s ESL classes, enjoys engaging with her students. She aims to connect with her students rather than simply teach. The class often consists of interactive exercises in order to stimulate the class.

Though the odds may be stacked against them, the children of East Durham are fighting for a brighter future with the help of one local organization.

The East Durham Children’s Initiative, or EDCI, is a local non-profit organization that serves as a “pipeline” of sorts for the children and families of East Durham and aims to have all children and youth in the EDCI zone successfully graduate from high school, ready for college or a career.

But why is Durham the focus?

“East Durham was chosen specifically by a group of folks who were very active in the Durham community, a group of people who have been on the Durham Board of County Commissioners and pretty major stakeholders,” said Samantha Cole, communications coordinator for EDCI.

“When they were trying to make an assessment they looked at a bunch of different neighborhoods and located this 120-block in East Durham having the highest needs of intervention. Basically, this was the area that needed the most help.”

Although EDCI has been operating since 2008, it wasn’t until last summer when they successfully developed a permanent home right here in Durham.

And with their new home in Durham came new partnerships with various organizations in the community as well.

“It is important we collaborate with other community organizations because we want to make sure that the people that make up the East Durham community are equally as invested in sharing the wealth and seeing the fruits of their own investments in the community in which they live,” Cole said. “It is important to work with people who live here.”

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As part of her class, Caryn brought out mirrors so her students could see the way their mouths move when forming these sounds. It proved to be a great learning tool for the class.


So with all of the work EDCI already does for the community, how did the idea for an ESL class for parents come to fruition?

“There’s a natural kind of problem created between teachers and parents when there is a language barrier,” Cole said. “It made it difficult for those conversations to happen, and parents weren’t as invested as they hoped they could be in terms of their children’s academic success.”

It was with this realization that EDCI planned to provide this intervention so parents could feel more engaged in their children’s education.

“Children of Spanish-speaking parents could feel that support at home and in school,” Cole said.

At the beginning of this summer, EDCI collaborated with Durham Technical Community College in order to help make these classes a reality.

Not only will these classes strengthen the relationship parents can have with their children’s education, but it will also strengthen their relationships with those in the Durham community.

“It’s going to bring down a lot of barriers,” Cole said. “We have several Latina moms who work at home with their children, and we want them to have stability and confidence and to be more involved with people in the community.”

Classes will be held this fall at EDCI, located at 107 N. Driver St. in Durham, from Sept. 8 through Oct. 30. But Cole reassures that this will not be a one-time thing.

“We are definitely planning on implementing them again,” she said. “This will be part of a series, and we’re going to collect some data on how much interest grows over time.”

According to a testimonial from Henderson and Berla on EDCI’s website, “When parents are involved with their children’s education at home they do better in school. When parents are involved at school, their children go farther in school and the schools they go to are better.” And with the help of EDCI, this is becoming a reality for East Durham residents.

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