Volunteering for a Cause: ESL student-run program helps native Spanish-speakers

By Jacel Egan

Although Marist only has a minority of people with ESL needs, a new service has been offered to help those that need such assistance. A new student-run program, headed by Marist students Emily Fiore and Cassandra Rosado, has been offered this semester for native Spanish-speakers who need help improving their English.

“What we do in our program varies from week to week,” sophomore Emily Fiore said. “The beginners work on basic communication skills, practical work-related vocabulary and common grammatical errors. What we do each class is dependent on the students, their interests and progress.”

The program utilizes several learning tools, including books, lessons from websites, etc. Photo from cactuslanguagetraning.com.

The program utilizes several learning tools, including books, lessons from websites, etc. Photo from cactuslanguagetraning.com.

ESL stands for ‘English as a Second Language,’ a program for non-native English speakers.  Though the program that Fiore and Rosado run is relatively small, composed of about ten students total and six showing up consistently, they feel that this service helps the attendees not only with their jobs, but also with everyday life.

“Our students are extremely appreciative and I think the thing the class gives them most is confidence in their day to day lives. They get a sense of community and belonging, as there is definitely a social aspect to our class,” Fiore said. “Marist should be concerned with the continuing education of each member of their community, whether student, faculty or staff, and I think the program fits in well with Marist’s mission to be a community service-driven campus.”

The program started during the fall semester of this year, with the two student teachers interested in volunteering to teach English off campus with another program, Literacy Connections. Since their schedules did not comply with the nightly training sessions, they decided to create a program on campus at the suggestion of Campus Ministry.

“We took the idea and ran with it,” sophomore Cassandra Rosado said. “We passed out fliers to employees on campus, mostly targeting the housekeeping staff. It took a lot more planning than we originally realized, but we started everything officially this past December.”

The ESL program meets twice a week for 45 minutes in the Alumni Reading Room in the library. Though it is not specifically affiliated with any department, it has the support of the Academic Learning Center, Human Resources, Public Praxis, Campus Ministry and the Modern Languages and Cultures Department. These various departments are there if the volunteers need to consult someone, or if they need more resources.

With the departments’ help, Fiore and Rosado are also motivated by the positive feedback from numerous people, in addition to those who attend the program regularly.

“We have gotten great feedback from students, faculty and staff,” Fiore said. “People like the fun atmosphere in the classroom and the concrete improvements from all the students. The program is a much-needed service that is part of a bigger movement to make Marist a more vibrant place to be.”

“Even if the lesson that day was terribly boring, or they [the students ]have no idea what we’re talking about, the amount of appreciation and enthusiasm that they show every single class is the most rewarding part of the program,” Rosado said. “Em and I have made unforgettable bonds with these people and I wouldn’t give up doing this each week for the world.”

Though Fiore and Rosado are the original teachers, they realized how much help they would need in the future. Other Marist volunteers help the program on a regular basis to teach one-on-one lessons and/or observe for ideas and methods of teaching for the program next year, when Fiore will be studying abroad.

The ESL class brings Fiore and Rosado a sense of accomplishment, and has brought to the volunteers’ attention the necessity of such a program at Marist.

“I decided to do this because I have an interest in the ESL field,” Rosado said. “Em and I are both Spanish majors, so we have a passion for the language and helping people. What started out as a little community service has turned into the best part of our week. Now we see that there’s a real need for this on-campus and the fact that we have actually been able to make a difference, no matter how small, is inexplicable.”

Below is a video of continuing opportunities for ESL.

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