A program built to teach Spanish speakers English, Amigos and Friends, gathers at 10 p.m. every Monday and Tuesday.
Volunteers go out to the community and find people interested in learning English and are driven back to the Newman Catholic Center to be taught English words and phrases.
The “Amigo” is the person learning English and the “Friend” is an Eastern student who is willing to lend their English speaking skills to an eager Spanish speaker.
The program is set up where an Eastern student is paired with a member from the community for the remainder of the semester.
Gladys Valentin, a senior elementary education and Spanish major, is in charge of the Amigos.
She said many of the Spanish-speakers work in restaurants around town and are not fluent in English, and the program begins late at night because most of them work nights and do not have a car.
“They shower, they dress because they want to give a good impression too,” Valentin said.
Valentin said Eastern students do not have to be fluent in Spanish to help; they just need to have the passion and time to help someone learn another language.
“The only education that some of them have is second, third, or fourth grade, not even high school and sometimes you have to teach them Spanish first because they cannot write in Spanish (and) they do not have that education.”
Valentin said in the community, most of the aspiring English learners put education aside in order to work and provide for their family and this is seen throughout many cultures.
Jessica Bayles, a junior English major, said in the previous semesters 10 people would show up to the program. She said it was usually five tutors and five Spanish-speaking students.
The first Amigos and Friends this semester had nearly 20 English learners, and the program is facilitated by the connections made between the Eastern tutor and community student, Bayles said.
Bayles said she benefited from the program as a student and her Amigo student would help her understand what was going on during the program.
“I worked with a student and he spoke a good amount of English,” Bayles said. “After class in the center, we would hang out and play pool and everybody would be chatting in Spanish and I would be totally lost and he would translate for me, which was super sweet.”
Bayles also said the Amigos’ ages can range from 20 to 50.
Kristin Routt, a professor of Spanish, said she put her honors class to a service project and she wants her students to reflect on what the Amigos and Friends program tries to do.
“People who have never worked with someone different from them will benefit from this and that is a valuable social skill, it’ll help you become more of a human being,” Routt said. “It helps you realize we’re all the same.”
T’Nerra Butler can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]