Newcomer Academy celebrates student diversity and culture at annual fashion show

Newcomer Academy students performing for their annual fashion show.

Fashion and art allow student expression to shine. 

Fashion as a means of expression comes naturally for the city of Louisville, Kentucky. At the world-famous Kentucky Derby each spring, the carefully curated ensembles are every bit as much of the focus as the horses racing in front of them.

So, for the students at Newcomer Academy, most of whom are newly arrived immigrants, a student-led fashion show is the perfect marriage of their two worlds, old and new.

Newcomer students are tasked with planning, designing and executing a fashion show each spring that showcases the fashion of their native countries. It’s a stellar example of a multi-faceted, high-impact assignment. Students are highly motivated by the welcoming nature of the task. By asking students to share and celebrate their cultures, a community is formed that facilitates safety, compassion, and hands-on learning.

A soft place to land for immigrant families.

Louisville is a designated Welcoming City for immigrants and refugees from around the world. Last year alone, the Jefferson school district registered 14,000 English learners in their schools.

Many students arrive speaking little to no English, and with an average of a three-year learning gap due to interrupted schooling in their countries of origin.

Think of Newcomer Academy as a collaborative, safe space for learning. Instead of being thrown into the fast-paced traditional school environment, they are offered a three-year period at Newcomer where teachers are specially trained to help these students get caught up linguistically and academically before they integrate into the traditional system. Many of the teachers at Newcomer are bilingual or multilingual. Newcomer principal Gwen Snow says that this is key to the success of English learners.

“The fact that many of our staff look and sound like the students helps them feel more comfortable while they’re learning a new language and absorbing a new culture,” she said.

Ensuring student success with ELL-focused instruction.

Staff at Newcomer are specially trained to deliver instruction in a way that is most effective for English language learners. A high emphasis on sensory learning is evident in many classrooms here, especially using student devices and interactive displays to reinforce learning concepts for students.

Teaching with imagery is an important strategy for supporting the students at Newcomer, who speak more than 150 languages combined.

“Images provide an instant visual translation allowing students to better understand content and context,” Snow said.

Lumio and iQ is equipped with Immersive Reader which allows students to listen to written text aloud in order to better their comprehension and provide inclusive and adaptive instruction.

“EdTech allows us to find high-quality and culturally relevant images that can enhance engagement, comprehension, and relevance.”

Read how Jefferson County Schools implemented a district-wide technology rollout during the COVID-19 pandemic.