Uplifting Updates

What do our tutors do with their students?  So many potential volunteers wonder whether they could effectively help another individual, especially one struggling to learn English.  But it only takes a heart and a good listening ear.  Our staff supports the approximately 180 tutors who are out in the community, meeting twice per week to teach English to their student.

Each month, our tutors send us an update on progress made and hours spent with their student.  Reading and responding to these reports is my favorite part of my job: hearing about the hurdles cleared, advising or assisting with current obstacles and goals, and marveling at some of the stories.

Following are a few excepts from tutor updates.  Each one reveals the rewards of volunteering in this program, which goes beyond direct language instruction, and on to cultural exchange and friendship.  (Names have been changed.)

One tutor told about his student’s experience during his landscaping job: “Enrique said a woman came out of her house after he had edged her walk and said it looked “great.”  He asked me what “great” meant.  I told him “magnifico.” He was quite pleased to know that….  I made flash cards of the common flowers he will see around the homes of his clients.  He is working to learn the names of those flowers.”  This led to talking about the flowers in singular and plural, practicing “to be” using is and are, and putting the “s” on singular 3rd person verbs (i.e. It blooms.), and writing a dialogue with the student, practicing typical conversations he might have at work with customers and with managers.

Another tutor writes, “Anita and I continue to work on her conversation and pronunciation as well as other things that come up during the course of our meetings.  I helped her understand a form she had to complete for her insurance company. We have also been working together on writing. Anita and her husband took me out to a nice dinner for my birthday. We enjoy being together and have lengthy conversations on many topics.  Sometimes we read articles or look things up on our iPads. Also, she takes some certification courses from time to time that are required in her career and she will highlight the text if she doesn’t understand something, so I can help her with it when we meet.”

And more……

“Lidia’s gear box on the garage was broken .  Also, she had to call school about her son.  We practiced these dialogues, and then I sat with her while she made the phone calls on speaker phone.”

“We have continued to meet and study the book about American culture provided by VEP.  And to practice conversation in other settings, we took a trip to a Korean food store; played tennis; visited an Asian restaurant; went to the movies.”

Some of the reports are poignant, too.  One tutor had been supporting his student over the past year as her aging father struggled with illness.  He helped her communicate about the challenges she faced and to talk to healthcare workers.  His last report read, “Carmen’s dad died a few weeks ago and she is working through her grief.   She is able to share her emotions with me–good stuff–I feel honored!”

“I took Manuela and her son to Marsh Creek today.  It was so relaxing for her.  She kept telling me how great it was, and Marco would tell her he was happy!!!!  It was her first time sitting on a blanket and having a picnic lunch by the water.  The three of us laid on the blanket looking up to the sky and saying what we thought the clouds looked like.  Marco was so cute when we did that.  Just a beautiful day and such a joy for her.  She is such a sweetheart and I love to bring new things in her life.  She gets so stressed with all the health issues with Marco.”

Six brief anecdotes out of the 180 happening twice every week.  Of course, our tutors volunteer because they want to make life in a new country with a new language possible for someone.  Simply, they want to help.  But the reports we receive show the experience is every bit as uplifting to themselves.  Thank you to our dedicated tutors.

by Patty Rappazzo Morgioni, program coordinator

Appreciating our Tutors and Students

This past October, tutors, students, staff and board of the Volunteer English Program gathered at the Harvest Celebration to recognize the hard work and dedication of our tutors and students.

While the event was an acknowledgment of the dedication of these tutor/student pairs and a forum to recognize some special accomplishments, it was also a smorgasbord of delicious foods from around the world.  Each guest brought a traditional dish from his or her native country to share.  Foods from many countries around the world made for a delicious lunch.  (To see more photographs, please visit our Facebook page!)   As we enjoyed this global buffet, Executive Director Linda Grosse shared the accomplishments of so many individuals with the group, including recognition from State Senator Andrew Dinniman.

Congratulations go out to those we honored at this year’s reception:

  • Our newest citizens, Jihong Korbonits, Ramez Madanat, Josefa Cordero, and Urmi Patel.
  • Office volunteer Christian Mota
  • Speaker’s Bureau member and student, Gustavo Castro
  • The students whose work was printed in the past year: Sonia Afroz (student of Eileen Kennedy); Usha Barkley (student of Laura Gruen); Li Ling Du (student of Elsie Reinmenschneider); Jihong Korbonits (student of Joyce Hurt); Fang Liu (student of Mary Kreutzberger); Pedro Lopez (student of Patty Morgioni)
  • The tutors who have written for our blog this year! (prior to the reception) — Brett Swailes, Pam McGilliam, Ron Hovis
  • A very special thanks and best-wishes were extended to Linda Grosse, who is retiring from VEP after 12 years as Executive Director.  Board member Paul Keogan honored Linda, presented citations from State Senator Dinniman and County Commissioner Kathy Cozzone, and spoke of Linda’s undying dedication and tending of VEP to grow it to its current scope and size.

After the recognition segment, this year’s student speaker, Xiaopeng “Jessica” Ji, spoke to the group about her personal journey with her tutor, Kate Varley.  Jessica’s impressive account of her challenges and experiences learning English with VEP, just one example of the many VEP success stories, was filled with humor, insight, frustration, but ultimately: accomplishment!

Thank you so much to all of the attendees who made this a special day for VEP.  We hope to see you all again at next year’s reception.  Who knows what amazing accomplishments we will all have to share.by Patricia Morgioni, Program Coordinator