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Loomis student speaks the language of success

Mongolian immigrant improvers her English, earns spot at Stanford math camp
By: Joyia Emard, Loomis News Staff Writer
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Twelve-year-old Undral Khuyag, of Loomis, is living the American dream. The Loomis Grammar School seventh-grader is a native of Mongolia. She arrived in the U.S. two years ago and knew only two English words – ‘yes’ and ‘no.’ Now, the honor-roll student has been awarded a scholarship to a weeklong science and math camp at Stanford University. With the help of her teachers, Undral’s language skills have advanced tremendously. She was recently chosen by the American Association of University Women to attend their camp held for seventh-grade girls. Undral was recommended for the competition by her math teacher, Kristine Sohrakoff, along with five other candidates from Loomis School. Undral was required to write an essay and give a speech. “Undral is really neat, very tenacious,” Sohrakoff said Last year, Undral was a member of the Mathletes team coached by Sohrakoff. “She was always asking questions about math and science. This year she pestered me until I allowed her to take Algebra I along with pre-Algebra,” Sohrakoff. Robin Amrine is the Loomis Union School District’s English Language Development teacher. Amrine has been working with Undral since the student was in fifth grade. “I am very proud of Undral and her accomplishments, especially her diligence in attaining Eng-lish proficiency. She has made tremendous progress,” Amrine said. Amrine works with Undral twice a week, along with 49 additional students who speak English as a second language. Students, ranging from grades k-8, attend six of the district’s schools. The languages spoken by the children include Spanish, Russian, Ukrainian and Indian languages such as Hindi, Punjabi and Tamil. In her essay on what she wants to do in the future, Undral said she wants to be an orthopedist when she grows up. “When I first came … I was new to everything American. My family moved here to live in a better economy. Where I come from, it was really difficult to live. There was not enough money to support our country and many people were homeless,” Undral wrote in her essay. At first, it was really hard for me. I didn’t know what the teacher was talking about and I strug-gled a lot,” Undral wrote. Undral said her parents immigrated to the U.S. seven years ago because they “wanted a new life.” Undral stayed behind with her grandparents. Amrine said the English Learners program teaches language structure and function or “how do you put it together and how do you use it,” Amrine said. “Social language comes fist and academic language comes second. First, they learn the language. Then they learn from the language,” Amrine said. Loomis School Principal Rick Judd said Amrine has “trained our teachers in instructional strate-gies, to meet the needs of English language learners.” “She’s just an excellent teacher. She has a knack for working with kids,” Judd said. He said Amrine “developed a good program” with the guidance of Carolyn Nichols, assistant superintendent of curriculum.