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This is the VOA Special English Education Report.
The state of Florida is home to one of the largest populations of Haitians outside of Haiti. The city of Miami has a neighborhood known as Little Haiti. People who live there keep close ties to Haitian culture. Young Haitians can learn French at the Little Haiti Cultural Center.
Haiti is a former French colony. French is the main language used in schools there.
The center offers the classes through a nonprofit organization called the French Heritage Language Program. Not all of the students are Haitian. But for the ones who are -- including Dominique Domond -- the language has special meaning. He says, "My mom speaks French a little bit. She speaks French and English."
Marie Domond is Dominique's mother. "Sometimes, he says, 'Mom, I want you to teach me how to speak your language.'"
Jennifer Linkletter teaches French at the Little Haiti Cultural Center. She says, "French is part of what it means to be Haitian, and the goal of the program is to get them in touch with their French history and with their French roots and to be proud of that."
Learning another language can also help them when they grow up. Martine Buissart is the Miami coordinator for the French Heritage Language Program, which is based in New York. She says, "The more languages you speak, the more you can share, you can work. For work, it's very important."
The organization has also helped expand French classes at Boyd Anderson High School in South Florida. About twenty-five Haitian earthquake survivors attend the school. The students were among thousands of Haitians who came to the United States after their country's powerful earthquake last year. One of the students, Kerby Edme, says, "The teachers were very patient with us, because some of us, we didn't speak English before we came here."
Principal Angel Almanzar says there were also problems with lack of knowledge about the American education system and feeling isolated."
Teacher Mathieu Daquin is himself Haitian. He says the classes have been good for the students from Haiti. "It's like Little Haiti within a school. This is where they feel at home."
Many Haitian students in Florida say they want to help their homeland. Kerby Edme says: "Every Haitian, even [if] they weren't there when the earthquake happened, I think they have in mind to go [and be] successful and then do something for the country, even a little bit, because when it all comes together, it makes a big thing."