AU student learns from, teaches Spanish speakers

Mon, 2013-06-03 08:45 -- univcomm
June 3, 2013

Seeking volunteer hours for a Spanish class credit last spring, Anderson University student Brooke Taylor began to help in Anderson Community Schools’ Adult English as a Second Language program.

But Taylor didn’t just stay long enough to earn her college credit and then disappear. She came back this year to work with the students on her own time. [Photo: Anderson University student Brooke Taylor interacts with English as a Second Language learners at Paradigm Place. Students José Espinoza and Sara Miranda watch.]

ESL instructor Patty Caraway said it’s rare to find such a caring, intelligent person like Taylor willing to help others.

“I love working with these people,” Taylor said. “They’re so hard working. And it’s something I enjoy doing.”

Taylor first took a Spanish class in the eighth grade. Now the language is her major, along with psychology.

She’s been to several Spanish-speaking countries that she says are very open and welcoming, but was really touched during time spent in Honduras, where she volunteered at an orphanage during high school.

She loves to learn about the language and culture, but is most inspired by the stories.

There in Honduras she worked with a teenage girl who was pregnant and had been abused, but still had “hope in her eyes.” As a teenager herself, the girl’s case struck Taylor.

“That was what clicked for me,” she said. “Hearing their stories and their hearts.”

From there, she added, she just “wanted to do more above me.”

Students like Rosie Sierra said they came to the U.S. because they wanted a better future. “It’s different” in America, Sierra said.

And when Taylor says they work hard, some come in after 12-hour days to learn the language twice a week.

When Leonides Santiago first came to the class, he couldn’t speak any English.

But Caraway said Taylor brought in a book with pictures of horses and began to teach him the different parts of the animal for his job.

Taylor said she tries to cater to each student’s needs.

Part of the reason Santiago comes to class every week, he said, is because it’s difficult to go through an entire day without being understood.

Not just at work, but places like the grocery store.

Taylor was excited to help the students because “learning the language opens new doors.”

José Espinoza said they “need to speak English” for more opportunities.

He wants to learn for work and so that he can better communicate with the professionals in his kids’ lives, such as teachers at school.

Espinoza and Sara Miranda’s children speak both English and Spanish. And sometimes, Espinoza said, the children correct him.

Miranda talked about being able to communicate well in a case such as when a child needs to go to the hospital.

She said it “takes pride away” when people say ‘oh, they can’t speak English’ and bring in a third party to communicate.

Caraway added that in a situation like that, an interpreter may not express all of a parent’s concerns well.

“It’s very important to me to learn more English,” Miranda said. “My life is better here.”

Both Espinoza and Miranda expressed gratitude to Caraway and Taylor for helping them learn the language.

“She’s nice person,” Espinoza said of Taylor. “Maybe she not have a lot of free time, but she come here (to teach).”

Caraway said Taylor has a good heart and wants to see the students get better.

She’s gone home for the summer, but Taylor said she’d love to come back and volunteer in the fall.

The experience, she added, has “definitively opened my eyes to the possibilities.”

Taylor now wants to advocate for women who come over to the U.S.

— Dani Palmer is a reporter for The Herald Bulletin. Story reposted with permission.

Anderson University is a private Christian university of about 2,600 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson University continues to be recognized as one of America's top colleges by U.S. News and World Report, The Princeton Review, and Forbes. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, music, nursing, and theology.