People near and far were drawn to Western North Dakota during the oil boom.
Some came from other parts of the country while others came from countries all across the world.
When Williston High School freshman Marcela Maldonado first moved to Williston she says they only English she knew was, “Hello and I think how are you. That’s all,” she said.
Now she is fluent in the English language.
In the past decade, Williston Public School District 1’s English Language Learner program has grown from 1 student to 155 students.
“Never in my life did I think this would happen to Williston. I was not here during the first boom so I had no idea what it was like. When all this diversity came, I just couldn’t believe it,” said LeAnne Tracey, the Williston Public Schools English Language Coordinator.
Tracey was the program’s only teacher to its only student back in 2007.
Now, the program which was the fifth largest statewide last year, has 4 teachers, 1 tutor, and Tracey as coordinator.
“Word has gotten around to where this is the place to be,” Tracey said.
And people have come from all over.
Of the 155 students in Williston’s public school district 1 ELL program, there are 26 different languages spoken and 18 different countries represented. Countries like Jordan and Columbia.
Which is where Marcela hails from.
It takes 5 to 7 years for most students to achieve academic proficiency in the English language.
Marcela did it in 2.
“I’m really proud of myself when they say that I’m the only one who got it so quickly. I work really hard,” Maldonado said.
The growth has been a big change, but a positive one says ELL instructor Ryan Stebbins.
“There’s been some resistance in the community. But in a lot of ways, people have open their arms and embraced it too. I think the more culture, the more people we have coming together to work to solve common problems is really good for everybody,” Stebbins added.
They often come from different countries. Have different experiences.
And are different students.
But soon, there will be a common language among them.
Fargo and West Fargo lead the state with the most students enrolled in ELL programs.
Along with Williston, Minot was in the top five cities with the highest enrollment last year.