Thomas Edison State University has received a $47,240 grant from the Princeton Area Community Foundation (Community Foundation) in support of the university’s New Jersey Cultural Competency and English Language Learners (ELL) Institute and Mentoring Program based in The John S. Watson Institute for Public Policy.

The ELL Program, now in its 13th year, has been receiving ongoing support through the Community Foundation’s Community Impact Grants program, which funds organizations whose initiatives transform the lives of low-income individuals, families and communities. This year’s grant is from the 2019 Community Foundation’s Community Impact Grants and the Burke Foundation Legacy Grants program.

The funding will support the ELL program’s mentoring component for 24 teachers in the Trenton Public School district who will receive formal cultural competency training and monthly mentoring thereafter. The program teaches theory and best practices in cultural competency; first and second language acquisition and English learning strategies; models best practices through simulations; and equips teachers to use culture and language as tools in developing their students’ positive cultural identity and self-esteem.

“We are immensely grateful for the continued generosity of the Princeton Area Community Foundation in support of this endeavor,” said Barbara George Johnson, executive director, The John S. Watson Institute for Public Policy at the university. “The funding will allow us to champion our program’s evidenced-based professional development model that has been proven to transform the thinking and practices of Pre-K to fifth grade teachers in our city’s public schools, empowering their students to succeed within the context of their own cultural framework.”

Since its launch in 2007, the ELL Program has provided professional development and mentoring to 290 early childhood and elementary school educators in 158 classrooms in 99 schools throughout New Jersey.

Nelida Valentin, vice president of Grants and Programs for the Princeton Area Community Foundation (front, right) joins TESU staff Barbara George Johnson, executive director, The John S. Watson Institute for Public Policy (front. left); Frederick S. Brand, director of Corporate and Foundation Relations (back, left); and John Thurber, vice president for Public Affairs.

“This year, we have partnered with the Burke Foundation to broaden the reach our Community Impact Grants have on the Greater Mercer County area,” said Jeffrey M. Vega, president and CEO of the Princeton Area Community Foundation. “Together, we are working to address critical needs in the community and build a cycle of opportunity across generations, so our goals align with the objectives of the Cultural Competency and English Language Learners Institute and Mentoring Program at Thomas Edison State University. Together, we are supporting teachers so they can benefit from this innovative professional development program.” This year’s program expansion will include additional schools in Trenton that represent racially diverse students. It is anticipated that it will positively influence the quality of education of more than 500 students in the district – 84 to 93 percent of whom are from families who qualify for the School’s free and reduced lunch program. In Trenton Public Schools, there are an estimated 3,210 students who speak languages other than English at home, with additional newcomers arriving daily.

To learn more about the Program, visit https://www.tesu.edu/watson/institute/summer-institute.cfm.