In the Honors College, service is considered foundational for all students.
Each year, the Honors College offers a service project that engages the book all Honors College students read prior to the fall semester. Incoming students read Luis Urrea’s “The Devil’s Highway” this past summer, and the accompanying service project has reflected the integration of cultures prominent in Urrea’s work.
The Honors College partnered with the English Second Language Program (ESL), whose mission is to ensure that all children who are English-Language Learners (ELL) have the opportunity to attain English proficiency. Honors College students attended three training sessions before being assigned to one of six East Baton Rouge Parish public schools to act as an English tutor for immigrant or refugee elementary and high school students with a low English proficiency level.
Associate Dean Granger Babcock noted that the most important characteristic of the project was to allow students a chance to interact with someone who was an immigrant or who had recently come to the United States. Another goal was to give back to the state.
“We thought, why not partner with EBR Parish schools,” said Babcock. “It's a public entity, and we're a public entity, and we're supposed to be serving the state, and they obviously serve the state on a daily basis. So we got in contact with the ESL Program. That's how the project was designed.”
The English tutors’ goal is to assist the ELL students in the subjects where English proficiency is required. Teachers of the ELL students report regularly on the progress of the students .
ESL Coordinator Gladys White says that this feedback has been largely positive.
“We get regular feedback [from the teachers] and it's been very positive,” said White. “There’s a connection there, between the tutor and the tutee. It's a win-win because our students get to benefit from the attention with the tutoring, and the LSU students benefit from coming in to make that connection with the youth in our public schools.”
Tassin Idewu, ESL Instructional Support Specialist for EBR Schools, commented that the commitment of the Honors students has made this an incredibly beneficial experience for the ELL students.
“We received a summary from the ESL Instructional Specialists in the schools, and that summary just raved about how passionate and involved the tutors were with the kids,” said Idewu. “The students enjoyed it, the teachers, and they've seen a lot of progress from the students as a result.”
As for the Honors College students, the positive experience is mutual. Mass Communications and Business Freshman Jennifer Vance said she was encouraged to get involved in service before school began.
“When I went to the Honors Breakfast before school started they said ‘We have this service project, and it's really great to get involved with,’” said Vance. “It really was.”
For Biology Freshman Josh Edwards, the experience was a cultural introduction.
“Before this semester I had never met anybody from China, and this semester I met two people from China including my ESL student,” said Edwards. “So it was a cultural exchange as well as an academic exchange.”
International Studies and Political Science Senior Logan de La Barre-Hays said she was surprised by how much she learned.
“My experience has been really eye-opening. It's definitely shown me a lot about how personal attention is important when it comes to helping kids learn a language. I've been able to watch their confidence improve over the course of the semester, which has been really, really enlightening.”
Math Junior Morgan Matchett said that the most rewarding experience is seeing how her presence has influenced her student
“I tutored a young girl at Highland Elementary,” said Matchett. “By the end of the semester she would light up whenever I came in the classroom. It was great.”
Story by Jacqueline DeRobertis, LSU Honors College
For more information, contact the Honors College at 225-578-8831