NewsLocal NewsIn Your NeighborhoodClewiston


OVERCOMING BARRIERS: Clewiston’s Eastside Elementary achieves 'B' rating amid diversity challenges

Posted at 6:27 PM, Feb 21, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-21 18:27:11-05

CLEWISTON, Fla. — In Hendry County, the schools are filled with students with a rich tapestry of backgrounds, including a significant number of migrant students, which, they say, can create some unique challenges including language barriers. Clewiston’s Eastside Elementary has achieved a “B” school rating, and given the challenges they face, its a mark, they say, they’re quite proud of.

Overcoming challenges is what learning is all about. Fourth grader, Elizabeth Herrera, says that’s what her journey at Eastside has been like so far.

“I changed so much. I remember I used to not know things and I was like, ‘What is this?’ and, ‘What is that?’. But, then I started getting the hang of it, then took a test and got my first 100%,” Herrera said proudly.

Elizabeth attributes much of her success to her third-grade teacher, Mrs. Calvo. She says she struggled with English when she first came to the school in 3rd grade, but now, a year later, says she’s really finding her stride.

“Right now, I’m in fourth grade, but I’m not learning fourth grade, I’m learning 5th grade. So, that’s my big achievement. Every time I go to a grade I improve more, skip the grade and go to a different grade like 5th,” Herrera explained.

Mrs. Calvo has been teaching at Eastside Elementary since 2001, and says she’s proud of how much Elizabeth has grown. "We just kept pushing, and those words, I guess, really worked. There were tears because it was hard just like any challenge, but she overcame all those barriers," Mrs. Calvo recalled.

The school's achievement goes beyond individual success stories. For the 2023 school year, Eastside Elementary received the highest school points in the district, earning them the 'B' school rating. Hendry County School District Superintendent, Michael Swindle, says Eastside and Westside are now the two highest rated schools in the county.

"To be able to do that with a very high number of ELL (English Language Learner) students, with a large migrant population, with a large minority population - it goes to show that really the truth is in education, when you have the right teachers who love what they do and love the students, you can achieve high things. The students are not the setback. We have a lot of barriers to overcome - they overcome those barriers and are still high achieving schools. I couldn’t be prouder of the work they do there,” Swindle added.

Now, looking back, Herrera says she’s thankful for the lessons and the love she’s received at Eastside. “It’s like a big ol’ family,” said Herrera.