I have been volunteering one morning a week in the Columbia Heights Adult Basic Education English as a Second Language classroom for about a year. It has been a wonderful experience because:
- I get to learn about the world.
I love it when we pull down the world map and introduce ourselves. Without leaving my chair or opening a book or a computer, I discover new landscapes, flavors and ideas.
- I’m reminded of my strengths.
When life gets tough, I sometimes feel like I can’t do anything right. I speak English well and there are days when it’s nice to be reminded of that.
- I get to spend time with courageous people.
I can’t imagine any change bigger than picking up your life and moving it to a different country. Metro North students are experts at risking, problem-solving, patience and resilience; that’s just the kind of people I want to be around.
- I hear stories and get stories.
It’s fun to learn about where students come from, what their lives were like in their home countries, how they got here and what their lives are like now. Hearing their stories gives me new stories to share.
- I get to be part of the Great American Experiment.
When I watch the news, I start to notice what’s wrong in the US. When I come to class, I see women who are coming to school for the first time. I am part of conversations in which people who practice Islam, Buddhism or Christianity show respect and admiration for each other. I hear stories of progress and dreams come true. I witness what’s right about America.
- There is always a happy surprise.
Like the seventh reason on a list of six, each morning in the classroom brings an unexpected bonus. I come away having received more I gave.