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Ritenour International Welcome Center Receives 2019 Civic Award of the Year

Dr. Lisa Thompson, IWC reading specialist; Molly Welsh, IWC middle school teacherThe Ritenour International Welcome Center (IWC) is the recipient of the prestigious 2019 Civic Award of the Year by the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of St. Louis. The center was honored at the chamber’s Adelante Awards Gala on April 26.

The award recognizes the IWC for its outstanding efforts in improving the quality of life of community members and its significant positive impact on the Hispanic business community.

“It is an honor for our International Welcome Center to be recognized for the impressive impact it has made beyond the walls of its building,” said Ritenour Superintendent Dr. Chris Kilbride. “We are proud of our team’s support for the students and their families who our center serves, and are humbled knowing the fruits of their work are creating a stronger community.”

The IWC’s team of dedicated teachers and assistants serve Ritenour students from Hoech and Ritenour middle schools, as well as from Ritenour High School, who need intensive English Language Learner support with accelerated English training. While at the center, high school students earn credit toward graduation.

At the beginning of the 2017 school year, the program expanded from one classroom to encompass an entire floor in the north wing of Hoech Middle School in St. Ann. At the same time, Ritenour was named the first St. Louis Mosaic Ambassador School District. The St. Louis Mosaic Project Ambassador School program encourages member schools to reinforce an internationally welcoming and inclusive culture through programs unique to each school. 

Jaime Sansoucie, IWC counselor; Molly Welsh, IWC middle school teacherThe IWC’s program also provides an introduction to the U.S. culture and school system, and exposure to educational expectations and opportunities. The center gives students the support they need throughout their school day in a small, intimate environment that values their home cultures.

Students spend one to four semesters at the IWC before transitioning to their home school. The amount of time that a student spends at the center varies depending on the progression of the student in both English and math.

In addition to helping the students academically, the center also helps their parents or guardians navigate the school community. A bilingual parent liaison works with district social workers to provide information about community resources, health-care services and social service agencies that can help non-English speaking families. Ritenour also offers free English classes for adults, parenting classes and many other resources.

This is the second regional award the IWC has earned in the past two years.  In 2018, the IWC earned the Leadership in Community Development Award from North County, Incorporated.