From Student To Community Advocate

by Noemi Viveros, student of June Bigler

This post is one in a series of student responses to the question, “What has VEP meant to you?”  These poignant illustrations of students’ journeys convey the scope of their challenges.  Each student, at every level, struggles to achieve the next step in English proficiency, and depends on the life-line a volunteer tutor has thrown them.  We are immensely proud of and inspired by these individuals.

Noemi (right) with her friend and fellow student Josefa.

Noemi (right) with her friend and fellow student Josefa.

Through this excellent program I have been learning English for at least 6 years. It was important for me for to learn English and be able to communicate with doctors & other people. Now, I’m able to answer the people who ask me something.  I decided to learn English because when I watched the TV it sound to me like they were talking in another language even though I knew English. On that time, I was feeling lost and disappointed.  To learn English is not like reading a book. It is so far from the reality. This is just the beginning. Finally when you say to yourself “I can speak and listen English”, Guess what?  You need to learn to use idioms.

Thanks for the help and support that my tutor June Bigler has been giving me. She has been guiding me to learn and understand about the American Culture and customs. June is not only my tutor she is my adoptive family. She is always willing to help me in any way possible.

Now I’m bilingual and bicultural, I’m also a medical interpreter. I feel more a part of the community. I don’t have to watch just the Spanish channel, I can watch whatever channel that I want. I have a job at Human Services, Inc in West Chester. Here, I’m helping the Latino community. I advocate for them, for example, I make calls in behalf of my client. I stand up for my rights and the Latino community also. This year I helped 20 children to enroll in the After School Program at the YMCA to do their homework. Now, these children are away of drugs and the street, and they are exercising too.

This program has been a blessing for me, my family and my community. I’m so thankful for all the donors who have giving me the change (chance) to feel part of the community and give back my appreciation.

Editor’s note:  Sometimes the VEP office phone rings, and Noemi’s cheerful voice is on the other end of the line.  She calls in her capacity as community advocate, trying to help a client by securing English tutoring.  She has become an ambassador for the Volunteer English Program.


The Power of the Program

Every day, people who are desperate for help learning English come to us looking tired from working two jobs and caring for their families.  They are so hopeful that we can help them learn the English they need to schedule a doctor’s appointment, talk to their child’s teacher, understand their phone bill, fill out a job application, and speak to their American neighbors and co-workers.  With help from a Volunteer English Program tutor, they achieve these goals and more.

VEP has more than 25 years of successful experience teaching English to adult immigrants and refugees in our community.  We serve over 200 adults from more than 40 countries.  Our program has earned numerous awards and commendations for successfully serving thousands of people who can now participate in and give back to the communities we share.  But nothing illustrates the power of our program more than the students themselves.

In the coming weeks, we will post students’ letters which tell of their transformation thanks to our one-to-one tutoring model.  Please watch for each student testimonial, telling about the impact of the Volunteer English Program.

In the face of decreasing and disappearing funding for the the work of non-profits, VEP is in the midst of our annual fundraising appeal.  Our waiting list frequently climbs to more than 60 people.  We need funds to recruit and train tutors, intake and assess students, purchase textbooks and materials, match tutors and students, and coach pairs throughout the time they work together.  If you would like to make a donation, please click here or visit our website at It is our donors’ generosity which truly sustains the power of our program.  Thank you!