University of Texas at Dallas students who are taking Spanish conversation, along with community volunteers, are working with students and families in Frisco ISD to experience real-world interactions with Spanish-speaking families, while also learning about their communities.
Audie Adkins, community outreach liaison for Frisco ISD, has connected some students with a homework club that meets at Frisco High School, to allow the students to work with FISD students of all ages, particularly the elementary level.
UTD students have the opportunity to help students and their parents understand homework assignments, keep younger siblings occupied during the homework session, and develop an understanding of the challenges facing families whose first language is not English.
“The students are just great. They are improving their Spanish skills, while volunteering with our students and families in a meaningful way that goes well beyond saying ‘Hola’ and ‘Gracias,’” Adkins said.
The UTD class requires students to go beyond the classroom to strengthen their grasp of Spanish and to develop knowledge of Hispanic communities. One of the major points listed in the syllabus is “to prepare the student to practice their advanced Spanish in real situations helping the Hispanic community.”
“These students are also volunteering at Christie Elementary, where Frisco ISD operates an elementary-level bilingual program for Spanish-speaking students, and at Frisco High School. As the holiday season approaches, the students also worked to interview candidates for the Small World Angel program,” Adkins said. “The Small World Angel program often involves cases where volunteers need to ask parents questions about income, needs, and even clothing sizes."
Maria Heldman, parent liaison at Bright Elementary, says the students have been a great addition to the Bright family.
"We have the UTD students working with some of our ESL students, giving them a little bit of extra support and attention,” she said. “They have helped with Small World and they have also helped me with translating campus-related documents such as the newsletter or announcements that need to go to parents. That has been a tremendous time saver."
It has also turned out to be a way for one Frisco ISD graduate to give back to the District. One of the volunteers, Danny Hernandez, is a graduate of Frisco ISD's Liberty High School. He repeatedly tells school staff that he has truly enjoyed working with students and seeing school "through their eyes."
Spanish is just one of more than 60 languages spoken in Frisco ISD, but having college students involved in the District to help facilitate and encourage students is just another way the District is partnering with groups to reach out to students and parents to improve communication and involvement, Adkins said.