Dedicated Tutor Helps Student Achieve Her Dream

Maricela

Megan Mavity, Maricela Boyzo, and Priscilla Sawicki

Growing up in Mexico, Maricela Boyzo’s father believed that children should work and not go to school. So when she arrived in the USA as a young bride, not only could she not speak English, but she could also not read or write in her native Spanish.

After years of struggling with a new language, Maricela enrolled in International House’s English Tutoring program in 2011 and was paired with IH tutor Priscilla Sawicki. Priscilla is a retired school teacher who spent many years overseas, and has a keen appreciation for the difficulties faced by non-native speakers as they attempt to navigate the details of everyday life.

Within moments of their meeting, Priscilla realized that Maricela faced many more challenges than the typical student in IH’s English program. “Maricela told me that she had never been to school. She didn’t even know the alphabet. I realized within minutes that Maricela and I were going back to 1st grade.”

Despite the considerable obstacles, Maricela was determined to learn, and Priscilla was there to help her every step of the way. They met twice a week during that first year and their hard work paid off. “I would reinforce the lessons taught in the ESL class at International House” explains Priscilla. “We were really able to concentrate on what Maricela needed to do and needed to understand. At the end of that first year, she had the basics and wanted to move on to citizenship classes.”

Maricela again showed incredible determination and went through 8 cycles of citizenship training to prepare for her USCIS citizenship exam. Maricela had to prepare to answer from a list of 100 civics and history questions featured on the exam, be able to read English, and also be able to write a sentence in English.

After two years of preparation, Maricela was ready to take the exam. This time, however, she would have to be on her own – without her teacher and good friend to guide the way. Fortunately they had practiced so many times that Maricela knew exactly to expect. She was apprehensive, but philosophical. “Yes, I was a little bit nervous. It’s normal!” After the exam was finished, Maricela’s excited daughter called Priscilla to give her the good news that her mother had passed the exam! Then, just two days later, Maricela attended her naturalization ceremony and in June of 2014 became a U.S. citizen.

As a citizen, Maricela’s job prospects are considerably improved, and she can travel more freely back and forth to visit family in Mexico. Priscilla is confident that the real winner in this story is Charlotte. “Immigration is something we all talk about now, but this path to citizenship is long and difficult and expensive. When you have someone as motivated as Maricela to overcome incredible obstacles it is a pleasure to have her as a fellow citizen. Maricela will definitely be an asset to our community.”

Priscilla would also encourage others to join her as a tutor at IH. “This has been one of the most rewarding things that I’ve ever done. Not only did I meet a really special person, but I helped her achieve her goal. It’s worth every minute. And the person you help is so appreciative.”

Maricela really is appreciative. With a huge smile and an arm wrapped around her friend she says, “A very good friend. I love her!”

Volunteer as an English or Citizenship Tutor

Want to make an immediate difference in someone’s life?   Become a tutor at International House!

Our next cycle of English Tutoring and Citizenship classes begins July 13th and we are currently looking for more tutors to help our students enrolled in these popular programs.

Volunteer tutors and students are matched in a one-on-one format during one of four available time slots on Mondays.   Tutor materials will be available at IH, along with a tutoring facilitator that can answer any questions.   All tutors will attend an orientation session on July 8th 6-8pm at IH to learn more about this program, answer questions, and prepare tutors for the new session.

Tutors and students only need to commit to an hour and a half a week for 10 weeks  (sessions are offered each quarter).  For more information, click >>here or contact Megan Mavity, Director of Education, at mmavity@ihclt.org or call at 704-333-8099 ext  110.

Tutor-for-Web

YETP 2013

By: Denise Long, Executive Director

YETP_2013-announcment

Walk the hallways of Merry Oaks Elementary School and listen. Children’s voices rise and fall as they play vocabulary bingo or a game about verbs. Laughter punctuates the lessons. There is the scramble of feet as one of the lead teachers in a nearby classroom announces a snack break. Music filters from another classroom where children dance the “Hokey Pokey” and learn the correct English names for various body parts. Then, take a drive over to Pinewood or Montclaire Elementary School and hear the same sounds repeated. I guarantee you will leave with a lighter step and a smile on your lips!

This is the fourth year that International House has offered a summer Youth English Tutoring Program (YETP) to children in Charlotte who struggle to keep pace with their peers due to limited English proficiency. Many children in the CMS school system lose language proficiency over the summer while staying at home in a non-English speaking household. In Mecklenburg County, 13.5% of the County’s residents are foreign-born, and enrollment of language-minority students in the CMS system is at an all time high. CMS does not currently offer ESL summer programs for elementary school children, although there are programs at the middle and high school levels.

International House’s Youth English Tutoring Program (YETP) helps fill the gap by providing free English tutoring during the summer break for low-income immigrant children who do not speak English at home. YETP has blossomed through the years. Our initial pilot program was offered during the summer of 2010 and assisted 36 children with English language skills in a 3 week program. In 2011, International House began a partnership with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools  to better identify students most in need of English tutoring and to offer the program on-site at a local elementary school. There were 106 participants in two three-week sessions.  Last year (2012), the CMS partnership was further expanded to include two schools, 145 students, and more instruction hours (six week instead of three week sessions).

Our current program is now taking place at 3 elementary schools with over 200 children enjoying a fun-filled summer of learning  The YETP model matches a trained tutor with small groups of children for a 6 week half-day program. Each of the participating schools also has site coordinators and lead teachers  who supervise the tutors  and assist with student recruitment, placement and testing. The site coordinators and lead teachers are familiar with the children at each school and can offer individualized attention to a child’s particular learning needs.

The results are impressive.  Test scores show that children do not lose English fluency over the summer but rather increase an average of 15 to 25%.  And, perhaps just as importantly, the children receive the encouragement and support of adult teachers and mentors who believe in them and encourage them to succeed.

International House is extremely grateful for the support of the funders who have made YETP possible: the Belk Foundation, PNC Bank Foundation, and the Duke Energy Foundation.  Kudos should also go to Education Director, Gail Johnson, whose passion, enthusiasm, and community connections have played a large part in YETP’s ongoing success.

For many children in Charlotte, the chance to attend a fun and educational summer camp is a distant dream due to cost and transportation barriers. YETP is a dream come true for over 200 children are learning to love English, as well as their new home in America.