Signed with hope: WMS students send message to Worthington

WORTHINGTON -- A group of Worthington Middle School students found power with a pen, and hope the Worthington area community will listen to what they have to say.

Students in Karen Omot's WMS beginner EL class recently wrote a letter to the editor articulating why their families immigrated to the United States. Students are Jose Barajas Madrigal (front row, from left), Pho Zaw, Margarita Pineda Mejia, Luis Ramirez Ramirez, (back row) Maria Martinez, Julian Cerda Rodriguez, Oscar Gonzalez Cortez, Anthony Leon Torres, Wilder Ramirez Arreaga and Charles Saydee. (Alyssa Sobotka / The Globe)

WORTHINGTON - A group of Worthington Middle School students found power with a pen, and hope the Worthington area community will listen to what they have to say.

Inspired by global female and education activist Malala Yousafzai, WMS English Language teacher Karen Omot’s sixth-grade beginner EL class recently constructed a letter to the editor that details why their families immigrated to the United States. The letter - written by students from Mexico, El Salvador, Liberia, Guatemala and Thailand - appears in this edition of The Globe.

“This is one way our community can see immigrants in a different light and how amazing they are,” said Omot about her students and their letter.

Omot said the letter was entirely the student’s idea after she prompted them to consider how, as sixth-graders, they could help make a change in Worthington.

EL sixth-grader Luis Ramirez Ramirez said he and the other students in the class wanted to tell people in the area why their families came to Worthington. Their letter details escaping corruption and a desire to receive an education.


“Immigrants come (to the United States) for a better life for their family,” the 12-year-old who emigrated from Guatemala said.

Sixth-grader Charles Saydee, who emigrated from Liberia, said war and corruption are taking over..

“All around the world, people are getting hurt,” he said.

With the majority of the students in the class from El Salvador, the class conducted some research to help construct the letter. They found that about three people are killed per hour in the Central American country to gun and gang violence.  

The approximately 400-word letter is the end result of a larger challenging project.

The students, Omot said, chose to read “I Am Malala” despite it being about four grade levels above their reading level. They’ve been in the United States two years or less.

“They wanted to read ‘Malala’ because it dealt with real-world people and they wanted to challenge themselves,” Omot said about her students, who are still learning the English language.

The class read the book together, which allowed them to expand their vocabulary and discuss the book’s concepts. The students, Omot said, were able to learn about Islam and Muslims, both the good and bad. They learned that Malala - a Pakistani woman - was not fighting any one person or group, but rather fought for girls’ education. She looked to media channels to help spread her cause.


“She got shot in the skull by the Taliban but she lived,” Ramirez Ramirez said. “She went and spoke to presidents. She didn’t fight with guns or war, but with words.”

Malala also earned the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 when she was 17 years old.

Omot said she sees the student’s letter as an exciting challenge to Worthington, as the community continues to move toward equity and acceptance of all.

“Some people don’t get to be in a class and see how awesome they are and hear their stories like I do,” Omot said proudly of her students. “This has absolutely changed my life.”

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