A special thank you to communications volunteer Monica MacMillan for contributing the following blog post.
According to a recent survey conducted by media organization Red Brown and Blue, “98.1% of undocumented Latino immigrants want to learn how to speak and write English.” Yet, only a mere 11.2% feel that they can speak and write it “well or very well.” Despite this strong demand, “cities across the country are experiencing severe shortages of English [as a second language] teachers, leaving long lines of would-be English speakers waiting outside their doors,” according to Businessweek.com. It is with this backdrop that Samaritan House is thrilled to welcome Sergio Lua as its newest volunteer English teacher at the Worker Resource Center.
Lua began teaching English at the Worker Resource Center a little over a month ago. Classes are free, and the curriculum is determined largely by the students. “I have them tell me what they want to learn,” says Lua. In addition to basic greetings and grammar, participants often ask to learn vocabulary relating to their occupations, such as tools used in landscaping, carpentry, and painting. Frequently, they practice pronunciation of the phrase “I am looking for a job.”
An immigrant himself, Lua came to the United States from Mexico in 2003 with very little knowledge of English. Through adult education classes, he learned English very quickly, and started taking other classes. He currently attends Notre Dame de Namur University and is working towards a B.A. in psychology. He volunteers his time at the Worker Resource Center because he wants to give back to his community.
“I want to make them feel comfortable,” Lua says, referring to his students. “It’s not a school, you can participate or not,” so long as you remain respectful. Lua is also experimenting constantly to see what works best. He is currently considering creating a curriculum and posting a calendar outside the classroom so that his students know in advance what he will be teaching from week to week.
In a focus group study conducted by the Migration Policy Institute, immigrants were insistent that learning English was “critical for their success.” “Fully 85% [said] it is hard to get a good job or do well in this country without learning English.” Reyna Sandoval, the Interim Volunteer Coordinator at Samaritan House, agrees: “I know that workers have been passed up by potential employers because they don’t speak English.” Equally as important as finding employment, English-speaking immigrants are frequently more “well-versed in their rights and the laws protecting them,” notes Businessweek.com.
If you are interested in volunteering as an English teacher at the Worker Resource Center, please contact Reyna Sandoval, Interim Volunteer Coordinator at (650)523-0819 for more information.