Bridging the Gap: How One Program is helping Latin Americans in the D.C. Area

By: Ifeanyi Ezeh

As time passes and the United States continues to progress, it is inevitable that the country will become more diverse. One of the main ethnicities that is flowing into the United States are people of the Latino race. Many of them come into this country without a very good grasp of the English language. This makes it difficult for Latino immigrants to thrive or even survive in the United States. One program in Laurel, Maryland, the Washington English Center School at St. Mary of the Mills School, is looking to help immigrants get ahead in the U.S. by teaching the English language.  photo (1) (1)

It is about 6:50 p.m. on a Tuesday afternoon at St. Mary of the Mills School. Many Latino adults are coming to take advantage of the ESL (English as a Second Language) classes offered here. Here program manager, Praneetha Arthur, along with a volunteer staff of teachers and tutors, aim to help immigrants in the Washington D.C. area by offering bi-weekly Adult ESL classes. They also offer weekly tutoring sessions for students who need extra help. The goal of this program is to help better the lives of these Latino immigrants in the United States by teaching them English. By doing this, it opens many doors for many of the immigrants to be successful.

Along with the students, many of the staff members also feel that they benefit from teaching in the program as well. Mark Gail, a veteran teacher in the program, stated that he did not see the volunteer work he did as work. In an interview he said, “The moment it feels like work I’ll stop doing it.” Kate Monagan, another veteran teacher, stated in an interview that she felt “called by God” to do the work. She also praised the diligence and tenacity of her students by saying, ”… they have jobs and work late hours but they still come to class…”. When I was asked about my experiences in the program and how it affected my goal of being a teacher I said that, ”It’s a lot more work than I thought it would be. But I still want to be a teacher.” I played the roles of both a tutor and an Educational Program Intern. Robert Goldschmidt, another veteran teacher, enjoyed seeing his students grasp concepts that they once found hard to comprehend. He said, “My favorite part is when students are able to understand something that they at first struggled with. There is then a nice sense of accomplishment for both students and teacher.”

The words of these teachers personify the goal of the program, to help teach adults English in an enjoyable way so that they can both survive and thrive in the United States. The program helps provide more opportunities for the students and a sense of accomplishment for the teachers and tutors.

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