Monday, April 28, 2014 - 17:00

Assumption Students, Local Immigrants Learn from Each Other

Autobiography Project Brings More Than Life Stories

Students from Assumption College and the English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) Program operated by local non-profit, Training Resources of America, Inc. (TRA), celebrated on April 28, 2014, the culmination of an exciting, seven-week volunteer project that fused community service-learning with a college course—resulting in an opportunity to share life experiences. The event was held at the TRA-Worcester Office at 2 Foster St., third floor, Worcester.

Maryanne L. Leone, Ph.D., associate professor of Spanish Modern and Classical Languages and Cultures at Assumption College, designed the project to blend a community service-learning component with her Spanish literature course and explore ways in which literature and film express the political, social and cultural environments of the 19th through present centuries in Spain. At the event, TRA ESOL students and Assumption volunteers read their autobiographies as they celebrated the success of their partnership and cultural exchange. 

“I wanted my students to work on a project with TRA students that would relate to our class, rather than simply provide ESOL support,” said Leone. “I had the idea of writing stories that would enable TRA ESOL students to develop their English skills while also allowing TRA students and Assumption students to reflect on how time and place, as well as migration from one place to another, influence our personal and social possibilities and also limits.”

As a result, 14 Spanish literature students at Assumption College helped TRA-Worcester ESOL students write their autobiographies. They also assisted with vocabulary and sentence structure, computer skills and phonics, all while modeling volunteerism.

Assumption College junior Erika Jyringi-Lopez, an international business major from Quincy, Mass., summed up her fellow volunteers’ sentiments: “The most valuable experience I have taken from this opportunity with the students from TRA, Inc. is learning about different cultures and walks of life that we may not encounter every day.  I value the gift of knowing and speaking the English language. These students are amazing, hard-working, and determined.”

According to Cynthia Vlasaty, TRA-Worcester’s Adult Literacy Education and Career advisor, “Our ESOL students that participated in this project come from Ghana, Kenya, El Salvador, Puerto Rico, Brazil, Argentina, Vietnam, Ecuador, Dominican Republic and Cape Verde. Writing their stories and interacting with the college students has been a remarkable experience, and we are deeply grateful to Assumption College and Professor Leone and her class for this incredible opportunity.”

Kimberly Dunbar, Director of Public Affairs, Assumption College @AssumptionNews