LULAC Students Giving the Gift of Language

Volunteers Help Facilities Management Staffers Hone Their English Skills

Dec. 17, 2009

In the spirit of assisting others, student members of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) are helping Facilities Management staff members improve their English-speaking skills through after-work classes at UT Dallas.

“Community service is an integral part of the college experience. What better way to make a significant impact than to provide a language for life for our dedicated employees?” said Dr. Calvin Jamison, vice president, Office of Business Affairs.

Bianca Hernandez, a junior studying molecular and cell biology, and the vice president and community service chair of LULAC at UT Dallas, said two student teachers, Irene Solis and Citlally Ramirez, gather each week with 10 Facilities Management staffers for English-language enhancement.

“One of the workers last year mentioned that attending weekend ‘English as a Second Language’ classes offered by UT Dallas wasn’t an option for her and others because the workers lacked transportation. Once brought to LULAC’s attention, we decided to offer classes during the week, after work, when the staffers’ rides would be able to pick them up,” Hernandez said.

Hernandez added that there is no prerequisite. “As long as they want to learn, we allow anyone to come.”

Bron Clayton, building services supervisor for Facilities Management, made room arrangements and coordinated setting up the class schedule. The 10 staffers are members of his team.

“I think this class is very important because it gives my staff the opportunity to communicate in English with students, faculty and other staff,” Clayton noted.

Student teacher Ramirez, a biochemistry freshman, said she knows the frustration associated with learning an unfamiliar language and wanted to help people feel good about themselves.

“The most challenging part is finding a way to structure the class. But it is so rewarding when the students are able to put all the pieces together and say, ‘Oh, that’s what it means!’” Ramirez said.

In a recent class, Solis, an historical studies senior seeking teacher certification, taught staffers Josefa Banda, Marta Larin and Maria Duran how to conjugate the verbs “to be” and “to have.” She also discussed the hard “d” and ”b” sounds versus the softer “v” and silent “gh” sounds in words like have, light, height and fight.

The class practiced pronunciation of the sentences, “I have blue eyes and black hair,” “She is happy and young,” and “The man is old and tall with salt and pepper hair.”

Ice?” Banda asked.

“No, eyes,” Solis responded, drawing out the sounds as much as possible.

“The most challenging part is explaining homophones and homographs,” Solis said.

Homophones are words that sound similar, such as eyes and ice. Homographs are words that are spelled the same but may be pronounced differently or have different meanings, such as present, which is a gift, but can also be used to introduce.

“Making a difference, even if it’s a small difference, in someone’s life is very satisfying. Knowing I helped someone better their life gives me a sense of purpose,” Solis said.

Human Resources Management also helped by providing textbooks.

“It was easy to assist because we have workers who are committed to getting better and better,” said Larry Wilson, assistant vice president of Human Resources Management.

“Members of the student LULAC organization on campus are to be commended, and I know our employees appreciate their contribution,” Jamison added

After a recent class, one Facilities Management staffer agreed that the exercises are a big help.

“I want to have a conversation,” Banda said.


Media Contact: Haywood McNeill, UT Dallas, (972) 883-4997, hmcneill@utdallas.edu
or the Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, newscenter@utdallas.edu

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English class volunteers and participants

Members of the UT Dallas LULAC chapter regularly work with Facilities Management staff to help improve staffers’ English-speaking skills.  

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