Students learn English with Amigos and Friends


Kyara Morales Rodriguez

Students help teach English to fellow students who don’t speak it, Wednesday night at the Newman Catholic Center.

Kyara Morales-Rodriguez, Campus Reporter

Amigos and Friends, an organization through the Newman Catholic Center, has been a part of Charleston for years. 

Since its inception nearly a decade ago, Amigos and Friends has been helping the Charleston community by teaching English to local language minorities.  

In the title “Amigos and Friends,” the “amigos” are those interested in learning the English language, while the “friends” are Eastern students who help teach it.  

Jonathan Coffin, a sophomore Spanish student, is the Amigos and Friends coordinator. 

Coffin said that this is his second year in Amigos and Friends, and during that time, changes have been made to best serve the community.  

This school year, the organization has set up four different tutoring session times, some as early as 8:30 a.m. and others as late as 10 p.m. 

Considering these hours, Coffin said, “it’s nice to see the ‘friends’ or EIU students be so flexible.” 

Coffin said that in programs that are meant to help the community, you “have to meet this community where they’re at.” 

“There are times, like at this 10 o’clock time, which to me feels really inconvenient as a college student to wait all day and stay up late and I have an early class, but the ‘amigos’ here work all day, and then they run home and get ready and they come to class because this is when they can do it,” Coffin said. “Our times are really set up around the times where each group or community can come.”  

During these tutoring sessions, the learners are taught basic English words and phrases.  

Harrison Hahn, a junior English language arts education student, started tutoring for Amigos and Friends this school year. 

Hahn said that so far, they have been teaching the days of the week, the months and numbers.  

“Pretty soon, we’ll probably start going into questions, like conversational stuff,” Hahn said. “It kind of all depends on what they want to learn.”  

Coffin said that the tutors come from many different Eastern classes. 

“There’s an [English as a second language] class where they’re learning how to teach [English], or Spanish classes, but then there’s also just students who want to come help, and I think that’s really awesome,” Coffin said.  

Though some tutors are participating due to class requirements, many of them also said that being a part of this organization is about more than just a requirement.  

For some tutors, like Audri Kauffman, a junior history education student, being a part of Amigos and Friends has been a learning experience. 

Kauffman said she joined the organization this semester because having an opportunity to teach interested her.

“I want to be a teacher, and something else I’ve been looking into is actually teaching English abroad, so this is a step forward,” Kauffman said.  

Hahn said he is taking a course on how to teach English as a second language, and that being a part of Amigos and Friends helps him apply what he learns in class. 

Hahn said he likes that hands-on experience, but that he has also been able to learn Spanish through these lessons.  

“I feel like I’ve learned a little bit of Spanish too from talking to them or even just getting to know them or in conversation,” Hahn said. “It’s kind of like I’m learning both ways, like we’re both learning.” 

One of the group’s missions is to “work toward developing respectful relationships between [learners] and their teachers,” according to the Newman Catholic Center’s website. 

This organization is about more than teaching English, it is about creating bonds in the Charleston and Mattoon community.

Coffin said that their conversations during the lessons are not always about learning English, and it helps the learners and tutors get to know one another.  

“It’s nice because I go to Walmart or I go to restaurants or just around Charleston, and the ‘amigos’ come and say hi to me, and I’m able to say hi to them,” Coffin said. “It’s nice to just form a community.” 

Coffin said that the organization has just started having tutoring sessions for the school year, so the tutors and learners have only worked together for about two weeks. 

He said that everyone is already participating “really well” and has a “really good attitude.” 

“I think you can tell it’s week two of everyone together, and people are already cracking jokes and stuff,” Coffin said. “It’s fun.” 

Hahn said that since this is his first year in Amigos and Friends, “it’s kind of exciting.”

“I think it’s pretty fun,” Hahn said. “It’s a lot more laid back and chill than I thought it was going to be. It’s kind of cool. I think it’s a cool experience.”  

Kauffman said something she likes about Amigos and Friends is that “community feeling” created during the lessons.   

“I feel like everyone is here to help each other, and we’re not alone,” Kauffman said. “The English teachers aren’t here alone either. We can rely on our friends here to help us if we hit a wall.”  

According to Coffin, one does not need to know a language other than English to tutor for Amigos and Friends.  

“I think the biggest thing is a lot of people I hear say, ‘Oh, well, I don’t speak any Spanish so I can’t participate,’ but the best way to learn a language is actually to not use the original language,” Coffin said. “It’s okay if you don’t speak Spanish because to teach English, it’s about mass input of English. We’re also super flexible. We’re not going to just watch you struggling and not help you.”


Kyara Morales-Rodriguez can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].