CHATTANOOGA (WRCB)- Hamilton County School's English Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) students will star in the multicultural stage production, Coming to America, on Thursday June 27 at the Chattanooga Choo Choo's Centennial Theatre at 5:00 p.m.   For one night only, the ESOL program at Hamilton County Department of Education, in partnership with the International Business Council, City of Chattanooga Office of Multicultural Affairs, Chattanooga State Community College, and Bridge Refugee Services will celebrate cultural diversity through the free, public event.

Coming to America is a multicultural experience that provides a bridge to better understanding of diverse cultures within our great city and county.

The production is the culminating experience of over 130 students representing 35 different countries, who have been involved with the ESOL Summer Enrichment Program, hosted by the iZone's Orchard Knob Elementary School. It will include educational student exhibits, musical performances, drama, the ESOL student choir, and other local musicians.

East Ridge Middle 8th grader Rania Faleah says she's excited to appear in the program.  The Iraqi native came to the US three years ago, and is still learning to master English.  She said, "I want to be a doctor, and my teachers are giving me the opportunity.  They have told me I can accomplish anything I set out to do."

Veteran teachers like Rita Schubert of East Ridge Elementary School are finding their classrooms are no longer "25 of a kind."  They're embracing the diversity and spirit of learning that comes with the county's two thousand multi-cultural students.  "This summer enrichment program, and our production at the Choo Choo shows just how smart and wonderful these children are."

Her feelings are echoed by East Lake Elementary teacher Tiffany Barr, one of the school's three ESOL teachers.  "I think they have all grown this summer," she said.  "We're offering them learning tools in a creative way, and they're doing things they've never done before."

35 different countries are represented in "Coming To America," which showcases the struggles and triumphs of students learning a new culture, a new language, and discovering new opportunities. 

Julie Legg, the school district's director of ESOL programs said the summer enrichment program has been intense, but valuable to students and teachers alike.  "Hamilton County cares about these children and their families," she said.  "We give them every chance to be on equal footing with other students, and they jump at the chance to learn.  They've come a long way, and they never fail to amaze me."