Students teach English through Amigos and Friends

Valentina Vargas, Staff Reporter

Amigos and Friends program is looking for Eastern students to help local minorities learn how to speak and write in English both in the morning and afternoon time depending on the availability of the individual.

Campus minister Doris Nordin formed the Amigos and Friends program in 2004 along with a Spanish professor and a community member from the Newman Catholic Center, which is where the program takes place every Tuesday and Wednesday from 10:15 p.m. until 11:15 p.m.

Nordin said the program started because back in her time, there was a program in the Booth Library where she went to learn English once or twice a week during the day, but because it was a volunteering program, the person teaching her would not be able to attend each session.

“I saw the reaches we have with the university,” Nordin said. “And thought why we don’t invite other (non-English) people, who need English, but don’t have access to the library (to learn English during the night).”

Nordin said in the name Amigos and Friends, amigos represents anybody who wants to learn English and friends represents anyone who wants to teach English.

“(We have) people who are from Vietnam, people from China and international students who want to practice their English speaking, so we practice conversational English,” Nordin said.

Araceli Campos, the coordinator of Amigos and Friends, said this is her first year serving as the coordinator, but she has been in it for the past two years.

“When I first did it, it was for a class, but when I came back, I loved meeting the amigos and hearing their story,” Campos said.

Campos said some of the struggles they see is if the friend is there for a class requirement, which she said honors Spanish class requires the students to attend, then the next semester some of the friends do not return or are not motivated to teach the amigos.

“The language barrier can be another thing, because if the amigo is paired with someone that does not speak a lot of Spanish, it gets frustrating because they cannot communicate,” Campos said.

Erica Alfaro, a freshman pre-vet major said, she joined the program based on her personal experience teaching her family.

“I was in Mexico and I taught my little niece the alphabet and how to count to 10,” Alfaro said. “She is only four years old.”

Campos said the program is individual teaching, meaning the lessons taught are based on what the amigo wants to learn, which can range from basic to advanced English.

“A lot of the time when you ask them what they want to learn, they say ‘I want to learn everything,’ so you have to know how they are as a person to guess what to teach.” Campos said.

Nordin said other than doing worksheets, they do teaching events where they go to Wal-Mart to teach amigos how to return or buy things. They also do social events where they go out to eat in a restaurant and just converse with the friends.

“Think of the beauty of the program, not about teaching English,” Nordin said. “It is about sharing and giving dignity to people, because sometimes people who come and study are just seen as a group of immigrants, a group that does not speak English.”

Valentina Vargas can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]