A program in which Spanish-speaking college students teach the English language to custodial workers has received generous support from Verizon Foundation. A grant for the Ursinus College ESL program will help support a unique program in which Ursinus students tutor service workers and forge cultural exchanges as well.
The student-initiated program was developed to improve the workers’ English language skills, although the students also want to create a better relationship between the workers and the campus community. “Verizon is proud to improve the quality of life for youth and families in the Montgomery County by empowering the community with innovative tools and resources,” said Daniel J. Reavy, Director of External Affairs for Verizon Pennsylvania. “We’re investing in programs, such as our partnership with Ursinus College, to reach every type of learner across the lifespan and to touch people’s lives by focusing on education, health and family safety in the 21st century. We understand that education does not begin or end in the classroom.”
“It has been a pleasure to observe the relationships that have developed between our custodial workers and our students through the Verizon ESL Program,” notes Dr. Christian Rice, director of the Bonner Program. “Our students work one-on-one with the workers, tutoring each participant with customized care. The gratitude shown by the workers is palpable. Not only have they been mentored in English, they now feel that they are even more a part of the campus community because of the bonds they have built with the students.”
Verizon’s support for the program began in 2007. It is carried out through the college’s UCARE community service program by students in the Bonner Leaders Program for selected students. It draws on current students to tutor and mentor some 20 Spanish-speaking contracted custodial workers, most of whom are recent immigrants to the United States. Student tutors, many of whom have studied abroad in Spain, spend about two hours a week teaching oral and basic reading and writing skills to the
employees. The grant helps purchase instructional materials and supports the student tutors. The program has been featured in The Philadelphia Inquirer and on NBC television.