We are committed to working tirelessly to enhance our community and the lives of Latinos in our area. But it’s always a little easier and a little more effective when we can work together with others to reach this goal. Recently, the Sierra Foothills Unitarian Universalists (SFUU) approached the Latino Leadership Council wanting to help the Latino community in Auburn. They were driven by a desire to engage and help the community and were looking for assistance in identifying how they could best address an important need. We are always happy to help others feed their desires to work with the community and the opportunity to collaborate with other organizations, so we took them up on their generous offer.
We conveyed to them the need for our adults to learn how to speak and write English. Learning the language creates opportunities for the community members, helps them integrate more with the larger community and allows them to better connect with and help their kids through school.
The SFUU congregation and others stepped up to the challenge and set up two volunteer-led ESL classes for monolingual Latino adults during the summer when there are no classes offered through our local adult school. The volunteers integrated picture dictionaries and workbooks into the classes
and helped the students focus on themes (words used in the workplace, in the home, in the school) that the students thought important to learn first.
The two classes were very successful, getting more than 12 Latinos on the path to being bilingual. But the benefits were more than the measurable numbers and rippled beyond the intended audiences. Parents have told us that reading to their kids in English made them feel much more confident, and the experience was an opportunity to connect with their kids and impart to them the joy of reading and being bilingual. And as is the case most time, those who give also receive. Many of the volunteers leading the ESL classes started to learn Spanish in the process. All of a sudden there were two different communities learning from each other and about each other, forming bonds that help transcend stereotypes and help enhance the overall community.
And it’s not over yet. We’re looking at starting the ESL classes again this fall and making an even bigger impact in the community.
We are truly grateful to the Sierra Foothills Unitarian Universalists congregation and their leadership for taking on this incredible task and want to give special recognition to the respect, enthusiasm and energy of SFUU’s representative, Karen Taijbl who led the charge and shared her delicious baked goods with the classroom.
We can’t do it alone, nor would we want to. For collaboration is sweeter for everyone when we share our talents to make a positive impact on people, families and neighborhoods.