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Malu Montero Britto Adapts to New Country, Language & Way of Learning

April 12, 2023 | Jeffrey Good

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When Malu Montero Britto moved to the United States from Peru as a 5th grader, the transition was rough. In addition to adjusting to a new country and language, she had to deal with an unjustified hostility from some of her peers. 

“I was nervous to speak up because I didn’t speak English and people would make fun of me,” she says. Classmates would taunt her, saying, ‘You’re dumb, we don’t understand you.” 

Her family also took some time to settle down, and she bounced from school to school, dealing with bullying at every step. Finally, in high school, she gave up on traditional school and decided to try for a GED. But that, too, was a rough road; she found that studying online was isolating, and when she needed help from a teacher, it was hard to come by. 

“I told myself I could do it, but it was too difficult,” she says. She lost momentum and began to despair. “I would see people graduating from Mountain View (her old school) and I would say, ‘That should have been me.’ ”

She told her mother, “I’m tired of being unstable. I want to graduate — and I want to start making my own money.” 

With her mother’s help, Malu found her way to Gwinnett County Acceleration Academies, which works in partnership with Gwinnett County Public Schools to offer a flexible, personalized course of study for students who’ve been frustrated in traditional settings. 

At GCAA, Malu found a quiet, studious learning environment with zero tolerance for bullying and a team of educators who stood ready to support her in every way. Every time she would come up short on a practice test in her adopted language, for instance, English language arts content coach Morris Bevily would break down the sentences and words for her to help her better understand. 

“What I really like is that there are teachers here who are going to help me graduate,” she says. 

She appreciates that, like all public schools, GCAA provides an education free of charge. “I was like, I’m not going to lose that opportunity.” 

GCAA’s flexible scheduling has also proven a boon. She comes to campus to study three days a week, and is able to keep a full-time construction job she landed working with her brother. “I can choose my days and that helps me with my job and my work for school.” 

Malu has an artistic eye and would like to study interior design in college. She knows that earning a diploma will position her better for success than a GED would have — and the momentum she’s regained at GCAA has built her confidence and her potential. 

“I want to graduate because I want to have a better opportunity here in the United States,” she says. “If you want a professional job, you need a degree.” 

Gwinnett County Acceleration Academies accepts new students on a rolling basis. For more information, check out the academy web page and fill out an online enrollment form.

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