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Bowling Green language academy for new arrivals to U.S. prepping for second year

Teranga Academy

Teranga Academy, a Bowling Green language academy, is set to begin its second year for students and families in Warren County who are new to the United States.

The academy opened in 2022, to help students who have been in the United States for three years or less, are multilingual, and have had their formal education interrupted. In its first year the academy enrolled 117 students from 12 different countries, and for some teens it was the first time they had experienced the US school system or English language program.

Kristi Costellow, the academy principal, said Teranga will continue to support students and families as they transition to living in the United States.

“We are hoping to be a place where we are welcoming students and their families who are new to the US they are learning English and they have experienced some type of interruption in education,” Costellow said. “So we are looking to try to fill in some educational gaps, while also being in an environment that creates a sense of belonging and community among the students.”

The goal of faculty and educators is to promote students into Bowling Green High School or Junior High who are proficient in English. The academy has three levels that test English language proficiency. A Teranga student is successfully promoted to junior high or high school after they complete coursework and pass an English proficiency examination, determined by the Bowling Green Independent School District. Teranga students can remain in the program for up to three years.

According to Costellow, some students have progressed further through the academy’s program structure due to diligent course work and faculty planning.

“So it's three years, three levels but that doesn't always equate to that,” Costellow said. “Some students have already moved through those levels. We have some students who are already going back to the high school for a couple of classes in the fall and one student who moved through the whole program in a year and is ready to go back to high school.”

Students learn through a combination of English immersion programming, reading and writing, basic math, language arts, and recreational sports. The Teranga program was adopted from Fugee Family, an Atlanta-based charter school.

Costellow said the faculty and staff are excited to meet current and new students ahead of the new school year.

“You look around and see people who are really working with their full heart and bringing their whole selves to help students academically and to help student needs, or even family needs,” Costellow said. “I feel like it’s really special to see that here.”

Teranga Academy is a part of the Bowling Green Independent School District and has worked closely with theInternational Center of Kentucky, a refugee resettlement agency, and RefugeBG, a nonprofit organization that provides resources and assistance for refugees in Warren and surrounding Counties.

Jacob Martin is a Reporter at WKU Public Radio. He joined the newsroom from Kansas City, where he covered the city’s underserved communities and general assignments at NPR member station, KCUR. A Louisville native, he spent seven years living in Brooklyn, New York before moving back to Kentucky. Email him at