by Christian Diaz, News Editor
When Professor of Modern Language Christine Swoap and teacher Wendy Punshon discussed unmet needs at WD Williams Elementary School last year, English as a second language (ESL) students spent their afternoons waiting for their school bus in silence.
Now the Buncombe County school’s media room bustles with energy from 2:30 pm until school buses arrive at 3:15 to pick up the little ones.
Swoap decided to funnel students from her language classes to WD Williams in order to provide tutoring to kids who live in Spanish-speaking households.
“We thought about having a club for students to go to after school while waiting for the bus,” Swoap said. “Some of these children don’t have older relatives who can help them because there is a language barrier.” Thus the ESL Homework Club was created.
Warren Wilson students had already been volunteering there individually, but now a group commutes to WD Williams on Tuesdays and Thursdays every week to work out division problems with third to fifth graders.
Fourth grader Adrian Fuentes Flores joined the homework club at the beginning of the school year and has found tutors to be helpful when doing his homework, though he’s not entirely happy with Warren Wilson students.
“They don’t give us the answers!” he said.
Though it is too early to gauge how the club has boosted students’ grades, school teacher Punshon sees that their performance has improved simply because the children are now getting their homework done–and the children love it.
“Every day is ‘do we have homework club today?’” said Punshon. “The [kids] are constantly wondering.”
Senior Heather Pregartner, who is majoring in Environmental Studies with a focus on Education has found the service trip to be meaningful and helpful in deciding if teaching is a career she wants to pursue.
“I’ve been working with one girl, her name is Kinley. She gets really excited when I come in,” said Pregartner. “She calls me over, and I help her with her math. She’s definitely opened up to me over time ,and it’s great seeing her grow and progress. It’s really awesome to witness.”
The south has experienced an increase in immigrants, many coming from Mexico and Central America, though Eastern Europeans also have a significant presence in North Carolina.
Students interested in joining the service trip should contact Christine Swoap.
Children born to immigrant families face a disadvantage in school, as the education system is not yet well-equipped to provide the services that help these children assimilate and succeed.
Punshon still sees a need and hopes more students will volunteer.
“I would love to expand this trip and continue it for years to come. Wilson students have been awesome,” Punshon said.