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Learning how to speak English in Perham: Language class lets loose at the first ESL Fiesta

Ariel Perez, already had a pretty good grasp of the English language before he move to the area from Austin, Texas. Michael Denny/Perham Focus1 / 7
ESL students celebrated the first ESL Fiesta on May 15. Michael Denny/Perham Focus2 / 7
Chaos ensued during a water balloon war. Michael Denny/Perham Focus3 / 7
Edwin Mendoza-Gonzales described learning English as a little tricky. Michael Denny/Perham Focus4 / 7
The event was designed to be a time for ESL students and their families celebrate a year of studying English as a second language. Michael Denny/Perham Focus5 / 7
Kaylee Tobon misses the heat of California. Michael Denny/Perham Focus6 / 7
After a succussful year of english learning, O' Reilly wanted to party with her students. Michael Denny/Perham Focus'7 / 7

English as a Second Language students celebrated the first ESL Fiesta at Miller Park in Perham. Dozens of students filled the park for an evening of celebration, reflection and fun.

Sarah O' Reilly teaches English, kindergarten through fourth grade. When she arrived at the park students quickly flocked to her side. She's been teaching English for two years in Perham and has a great passion for interacting with students. "I have great experiences every single day at school teaching my students, and it's the end of the year, and I want to celebrate what a great year we had," said O' Reilly.

Her lessons and teachings are an important part of the communication journey for many struggling to learn the oftentimes complex English language. This event was a chance for her students to celebrate after a successful year of hitting the books and sharpening their language skills.

Her students are from all over and carry with them different levels of English comprehension. She currently has around 60 students in the Perham school system. Kaylee Tobon, a fourth grader, could be seen enjoying a bite to eat while playing with her friends. Kaylee explained that learning English wasn't extremely difficult but did take a little work. According to her, the most difficult thing about learning the language was simply understanding what she was saying. Kaylee is originally from California and misses the heat of the West Coast, along with her family and friends.

Edwin Mendoza-Gonzales darted from one end of the park to the other, playing, running and mingling with guests. Edwin is from Detroit Lakes, and his favorite part of school is math. Living in the area was tough when he only spoke Spanish, but that changed after taking classes with O' Reilly. "When I started in first grade...it was tricky," said Edwin.

Every experience is different and unique. Some have limited Enlish, others are more adept. Ariel Perez described learning English as no difficult task. He recalled lessons when O' Reilly would attempt to teach him English, but he already knew most of what she was saying. He is originally from Austin, Texas and is currently in fifth grade. "I miss the hot weather," said Perez.

ESL organizers used this year's fiesta as a prototype. They hope to continue the celebration annually with more fun every year.

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