How Inspiring Minds and Brown University have come together to create a stronger learning environment in the Providence public school system.
Written by intern Grace Baldwin
Providence’s student body, while diverse, includes a 64% Hispanic population, with many having limited English proficiency. A primary objective of Inspiring Minds this year is to better assist these students by providing more bilingual tutors to Providence public schools; one way we are meeting this objective is by partnering with students of a Brown University course called Hispanics in the United States. This course is comprised of bilingual students and conducted entirely in Spanish, and an important component of the experience is to provide volunteer opportunities for agencies in Providence that serve the Hispanic/Latino population. Several volunteering options are provided for the students to choose from, and we are pleased that eleven of these students have chosen to give their time through Inspiring Minds. They are currently tutoring in five elementary schools and one high school.
Because classrooms in Providence are comprised of both bilinguals and native-English speakers, it is crucial to have volunteers in the classrooms that can not only tutor academic concepts, but can do so in the language which the student best understands. Brown University’s volunteers are able to balance these two needs for the students they tutor. Having bilingual tutors will result in the students’ full understanding of topics and concepts, and these volunteers from Brown have already begun to aid and assist teachers in moving forward the minds of Providence’s youth. One of the volunteers tutoring in a math classroom told Inspiring Minds that “individual attention makes a big impact on kids’ learning. The ESL students really want to do well they just need extra help.” With these volunteers, the students being tutored in the classroom can look forward to a fuller education now that they can understand the concepts in their first language.
Another volunteer told Inspiring Minds that they were an ESL student when growing up, so they are able to understand the difficulty in having to learn in a language that they don’t fully grasp. The most important thing to this volunteer is making a real difference with the students receiving help, and how the students are able to feel the benefits of being tutored in their native language outside of the classroom. She believes that “the only way to make a true impact is to serve willingly and with happiness.” This is the kind of mentality that makes a learning environment stronger and all around better!
Ideally, instructors and teachers need to be able to communicate with their students in the language that the student best understands; however, if the educator does not speak the language well enough, Inspiring Minds is hoping that creative solutions to the issue (such as putting bilingual volunteers in the room) will positively impact Providence schools. That is where Brown University’s tutors come in – they are able to translate texts, audios, and other forms of learning for the students who need that kind of help. The tutors from Brown are very effective, as they not only relate to the students’ perspective, but they are able to help a very specific student population who sometimes feel like they have no voice.
The volunteers here are motivated, kind, and generous people who love to watch the youth of Providence grow intellectually and creatively and want to share their passion for learning with the students they are working with. Bilingual tutors are an important part of the solution that Inspiring Minds is providing schools with to address students who need individualized supports, and the need for more volunteers like these is growing. If you or anyone you know of is bilingual and has 1-2 hours a week to give to help children in our city grow up empowered in their education, we hope you will join us! Find out more here: http://inspiringmindsri.org/volunteer-opportunities/