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Teaching Immigrants Requires More than Tutors

Posted by on Jun 16, 2017 in News | Comments Off on Teaching Immigrants Requires More than Tutors

Teaching Immigrants Requires More than Tutors: Stories of Justice

 

Sister Barbara Dreher and Associate Kay Barnes Lend Expertise to English Tutoring Project

 

by Sister Mary Flick, justice coordinator from Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet – St. Louis Province March 3, 2017

 

While immigration has captured the nation’s attention in recent months, the Sisters of St. Joseph have been reaching out to the newest of neighbors throughout their history. For some, that “reach” happens close to home through work on the board of the English Tutoring Project (ETP) in St. Louis. ETP has been providing on-site English language tutoring to children from immigrant and refugee families since 1998, with the coordinated efforts of 17 congregations of women religious in the area.

Sister Barbara Dreher has served on its board of directors since 2008, and Associate Kay Barnes has been lending her expertise as a development professional since 2014. Together, they have made visible the CSJs’ love of God and the dear neighbor without distinction.

Expanding Hope, Making a ‘Little Difference’

Sister Barbara Dreher was executive director of advancement for the St. Louis province when she was invited to serve on the ETP board in 2008. Since then, she has been its chair and vice-chair. More than warming a seat, she brings her keen eye in seeing opportunities to invite donors to join the work, and her large heart for teaching children.

Sister Barbara has years of experience as a fundraiser for Fontbonne University, and as provincial of the St. Louis province. She currently serves on the congregational leadership team. But she considers her early years as a CSJ teaching first grade, to be one of her best experiences of ministry. “They [the students] look you straight in the eye and beg you to teach them how to be who they are,” she says.

The chance to help children succeed in school and beyond was motivation for her to become involved in the English Tutoring Project. The program began with “retired” sisters teaching in a donated RV that was driven between participating schools. Today, the English language tutoring program works with immigrant and refugee students on-site at seven Catholic grade schools in St. Louis city, county, and St. Charles county. Twenty women religious and one laywoman “retired” from classroom teaching serve as tutors. In the 2015-16 school year, their classrooms included 156 students from 20 countries who spoke 22 native languages.

The program, Sister Barbara says, “encourages and supports children of immigrant and refugee families to become a part of their community. And the students go home and speak English, helping their parents to learn.

“When I step back and look at who we are as CSJs – how we turn beyond ourselves to serve a world in need, that we are to do all that woman is capable of, that we are serving the dear neighbor – the English Tutoring Project is an opportunity once again to be of service, and expands my hope of making a difference one child at a time.”

Sister Barbara’s experience came together for ETP in a three-year strategic plan that ETP conducted in 2015. “We asked, ‘How do we sustain our ministry if we believe we are making a difference to children and their families?’ I knew I could assist by putting together opportunities for funding,” she says. “In the nearly 30 years since we began, we’ve served children from at least 30 countries at the Catholic schools, with no cost to the family or the school.”

Those years have seen the program evolve: from sisters who volunteered, to offering stipends to the tutors, both religious and lay; expanding the board to welcome lay members; and hiring a full-time advancement director.

“It’s a holy business,” Sister Barbara says. “We have to have business savvy to ensure our ministry will last. Our board knows how to mix the value of mission and margin. There is a strategic commitment to ensure ETP will have the financial support as long as we need it. Children just want an opportunity to be the best they can be. We religious congregations caught that and knew it was our responsibility to help that happen. It’s a humbling place to be. I know we Sisters of St. Joseph are committed to ensuring the viability of the ETP,” she says. “I can’t do it, but we can.”

Finding Resources to Get the Work Done

That “we” includes CSJ associates. Kay Barnes became involved with the English Tutoring Project like many who become CSJ associates: she accepted the invitation. Sister Barbara contacted her with news that the ETP was looking for a lay woman to serve on its development committee. Kay has two personal reasons to be involved in a program like ETP.

“My mother’s first language was Spanish, and she had to acquire English,” Kay tells. “I grew up understanding how difficult it was for her. She always had a real interest in helping other people with language.”

And her own family lived in Germany for several years. “I watched my children go through language acquisition,” she recalls. “It happens so quickly for children and is an easy process if they are given an opportunity.”

Kay is beginning her second three-year term on the ETP board. She currently is a development officer for Webster University with more than 20 years of professional fundraising experience. “Since we were going to raise money [for ETP], we needed to reach into the community and find people who could get behind the program and offer resources.”

Since joining the ETP board, Kay has identified a family foundation that was a “fit” for the mission and work of ETP. “The development director and I made a call. We thought ETP would be a good opportunity for them, and they said yes.” In 2016, ETP received a $25,000 grant from the foundation, with the grant renewed in 2017. “I am proud to be able to share the message of ETP,” Kay says, “and help the donating family foundation recognize that it is a good mission.”

To see how quickly the kids get up to grade level when they are given a chance, Kay says, is part of the inspiration and motivation for her to work with ETP. “I see my own children by watching them. It is a big deal for a parent to see that your child does not have to struggle to do his or her studies and play with the other children.”

A CSJ associate since 2008, Kay says ETP is a perfect example of how she can reach out to the dear neighbor without distinction.

“Our first sisters – some of whom were lay women – would go out into the community, find the need, come together and talk about it, then deal with it. That’s what I think we’ve done here. In my little way I am helping with the English Tutoring Program, not by teaching, but by finding resources to get the work done.”

It is the CSJ way, with many works making little differences that meet the needs of the dear neighbors, wherever they call home.

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St. Louis women religious team up to teach children

Posted by on Jun 14, 2017 in News | Comments Off on St. Louis women religious team up to teach children

St. Louis women religious team up to teach children

St. Louis women religious team up to teach children

by Caitlin Kerfin in Global Sisters Report
June 8, 2017

St. Joseph Sr. Sarah Heger, principal of Marian Middle School in St. Louis, walks the school’s halls with familiarity, greeting girls as she passes, occasionally popping in to check out the creative work they’re doing during the final hour of the school day. The Catholic all-girls school was formed through a collaborative endeavor among St. Louis’ women religious, and the founders’ work is reflected in the encouraging drawings and messages that students have painted on the walls.

Teamwork among 17 congregations of women religious in the St. Louis area became an official nonprofit, the St. Louis Area Women Religious Collaborative Ministries, in 1998. The collaborative was formed out of an initiative from Region 10 of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, a national group of sister leaders.

The women wanted to see what needs they could tackle together, said Sr. Kathleen Koenen, a School Sister of Notre Dame.

The first need identified was education for immigrant or refugee children, which led to the creation of the collaborative’s English Tutoring Project. The program, which started in 1998, helps children from refugee and immigrant families learn English on-site at their school.

“No one congregation felt at that time they could keep starting new ministries to fulfill new needs because many of the religious communities that were in the Leadership Conference of Women Religious were getting smaller in this area or had many ministries they were already involved in,” said Koenen, director of the English Tutoring Project. “But if they could collaborate with each other, they might be able to meet a need.”

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The way it’s supposed to be

Posted by on May 10, 2017 in News | Comments Off on The way it’s supposed to be

From Global Sisters Report, May 4, 2017

The way it’s supposed to be

by Carleen Reck

Students work on English language activities at the sisters’ English Tutoring Project. (Sr. Kathleen Koenen)

I grew up in a home where Dad was an organizer, so we grew up expecting everything to be in order. Dad’s workbench had a chalked outline for each tool, arranged from the smallest hammer or screwdriver to the largest. Before we could read, we would line up our Tinker Toy rods by size, shortest to longest. Our building blocks likewise were automatically sorted into small, medium and large.

Is it any wonder that — when I went to Kindergarten — I insisted that in the alphabet, the smaller letter “n” would need to come before the letter “m” which was clearly larger. Everyone in my Kindergarten class who could say the alphabet properly was promoted to the first grade. Alas, I remained in Kindergarten because I was unable to reverse my home culture and refused to admit that somehow “m” should come before “n.” Eventually, I suppose I accepted the illogical arrangement, figuring that “they” just didn’t understand.

All of us can recall ways that we learned how things were “supposed to be.” We are all formed by the culture around us as we shape our ideas and expressions. Today, many children have been uprooted from their early settings where they could develop naturally and comfortably. They have been relocated to a new world, one where people speak with sounds they have never heard and arrange their sentence-words backwards. Learning — rather relearning — will be achieved at a cost. As we search for ways to help immigrants, we need to make the learning process a bit easier for immigrant children.

The English Tutoring Project (ETP), begun in collaboration by several women religious’ communities in the St. Louis area, is an example of a learning program that addresses the differences of immigrant children. Although “pullout programs” in general have been denigrated in many educational settings, the ETP program designers recognized that children who grew up in totally different cultural and language settings would feel freer to try a new language when removed from a classroom of children whose first language was English. These newcomers are able to enjoy mastering new sounds when they are with others who are also discovering that their tongues can make new sounds. They are free to celebrate when they can “arrange their words backwards” with some level of comfort.

A student smiles at the English Tutoring Project. (Sr. Kathleen Koenen)

A special learning area can also be a place where teachers and students can post items that would be either meaningless or laughable in a classroom of native speakers. The English Tutoring Project, for example, can post in its special classroom a sheet where children can record each new plant they recognize and another sheet where they can name each new animal whose name they learn. In that setting, no one laughs at the simple milestones, but all can laugh together at the new world they are claiming. A simple adaptation helps them to expand their knowledge beyond the plants and animals they knew in their home culture.

Educators face some hard-liners who insist that all children should be treated the same in the same setting. That ignores the fact that our Creator apparently enjoyed dropping us into a great variety of cultures and that Jesus Christ insisted that persons with different talents need to be treated differently, that persons of different nationalities need to be accepted and respected.

Why did the women religious in the St. Louis Area decide to provide this program? It all began at a regional meeting of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), where leaders of many congregations were identifying unmet needs in their region. “Immigration” was named over and over — and the sisters recalled that many of their orders came to the U.S. to help immigrants. They determined that special assistance to today’s immigrants would be a very fitting collaborative effort.

Discussion followed with those who ministered in immigrant areas. Apparently many immigrants — because of their backgrounds — trusted the church more than the state and were sending their children to Catholic schools. Although many of those schools were helping immigrant children attend, they were unable to provide any extra help for the children to learn English. The children were respected in their classrooms but received no regular help to deal with the new language and culture. Those children represented an unmet need, well suited to the traditions, interests and skills of the sisters.

So the LCWR regional leaders formed a committee to study and recommend a practical response. The need became evident for tutoring immigrant children in a “safe” space. The program name would make the intent clear: “English Tutoring Project for Immigrant/Refugee Children.” At the time, the schools were using all their classrooms, so an RV was recommended to give immigrant children their own learning area. During this project’s 19 years of service, separate classrooms have become available for the program.

Because the project was to be sponsored by various congregations, a new corporation was needed. So a new nonprofit began, the “St. Louis Area Women Religious Collaborative Ministries” — not a catchy title, but broad enough to include any future initiatives. The Missouri LCWR members offered startup support, as a group as well as through congregational grants.

This group of women religious identified a need and shaped one practical response. Immigrants bring a broad spectrum of needs that invite a variety of responses. Most basic to any outreach, I believe, is an open attitude, one shaped by the recognition of more similarities than differences.

As we meet persons who have recently emigrated from other lands, we might want to recall the unusual patterns we followed in our own homes. The immigrants, too, have learned how things were “supposed to be” in their culture. Just as we learned there were other ways, we need to provide safe settings and supportive ways to accept them and to respect them as they grow. Many models exist. The English Tutoring Project is one of them.

[Carleen Reck, is a School Sister of Notre Dame; she holds a Ph.D. in education, curriculum and instruction from St. Louis University and is one of the founders of the English Tutoring Program.]

Windshield Poetry Brings Smiles

Posted by on May 10, 2017 in News | Comments Off on Windshield Poetry Brings Smiles

Windshield Poetry Brings Smiles

by Adrian, Alondra and Jason

English Tutoring Project students are writing creative windshield poetry. The poetry is about topics such as spring, valentines and love, Christmas, and wishing people a good day. The poetry is for the citizens outside of St. Stephen Protomartyr School.

Students write poetry during ETP class as they learn English at the same time. When the weather is sunny, they deliver poems and put them on parked cars. They slide them under windshield wipers.

Students in ETP want to make people’s day shine by sharing amazing windshield poetry. 🙂 People who have received a poem said that “it made their day!!” One lady sent a thank you card from Tennessee. She found a valentine poem on her windshield after her father-in-law’s funeral and it made her smile joyfully.

The tutor of the ETP students heard of windshield poetry from a news story on television. She thought it would be a great way to “make a difference” and learn English, too!

 

Diversity Day

Posted by on Feb 15, 2017 in News | Comments Off on Diversity Day

Diversity Day

Diversity Day was celebrated at St. Frances Cabrini Academy during Catholic Schools Week. Students in the school could wear any article of clothing that might have been worn in the country of their heritage. It was a day to celebrate who they are and all of their gifts!

Sr. Kathleen Koennen Interviews on Allman in the Morning Show!

Posted by on Feb 3, 2017 in News | Comments Off on Sr. Kathleen Koennen Interviews on Allman in the Morning Show!

Speaker Jones is joined by Sister Katheleen Koennen of the English Tutoring Project.

It is the mission of the ETP to provide on-site assistance to refugee or immigrant families seeking to gain a better grasp of the English language.

ETP Featured in The Messenger

Posted by on Jan 25, 2017 in News | Comments Off on ETP Featured in The Messenger

Check out the Missouri Catholic Conference’s January 2017 issue of “The Messenger.” It’s all about English Tutoring Project!!!

 

Places – a poem from Lam T, 2016 Poet Laureate

Posted by on Dec 4, 2016 in News | Comments Off on Places – a poem from Lam T, 2016 Poet Laureate

PLACES

There’s a place.

A place with a diluted sense of reality,

and streaming hatred for the differences that reigns inside all of us.

A place where a mirror is a sharp dagger, and a number means more than anything.

A place where ignorance roams and knowledge is chained.

There’s a place.

A place where love radiates throughout the field.

A place where bravery and self-love is encouraged,

and where our differences are accepted.

A place where trees are grown and fish aren’t poisoned.

There are places inside all of us.

There are places in the world.

Lam T, 2016 Poet Laureate

Lam T, 2016 Poet Laureate

Lam T, 2016 Poet Laureate

Lam T was a seventh grade student of Vietnamese heritage who attended our program in K-2 at St. Frances Cabrini. She entered a poem in the 7GPoetry contest and won first place for the school. The 7GP contest organization published the poem in their annual anthology of poetry.

Fall Poems…

Posted by on Nov 4, 2015 in News | Comments Off on Fall Poems…

Autumn leaves are…
Red like an apple growing on a tree,
Yellow like a star in the sky at night time when I’m asleep,
Brown like chocolate candy in a factory.
Orange like a pumpkin pail on the table.
Autumn leaves swirl all around.

By Rickya, Gr. 5, St. Frances Cabrini Academy

Autumn leaves are….
Red like the apple seeds my dad plants in our backyard,
Orange like the lanterns I make for Chinese New Year,
Yellow like the yellow colored pencils in the classroom.
Leaves falling from the trees while looking at the glimmering sunset.

By Tommy, Gr. 5, St. Stephen Protomartyr

Cinquain Poetry

Leaves
Gold, orange
Floating, spinning, twirling,
Today I see them
Falling.

By Alondra, Gr. 3, St. Stephen Protomartyr

Soybeans
Brown, crunchy
Growing, picking, crushing
They make soy sauce.
Pods

By Giau, Gr. 3, St. Stephen Protomartyr

Poems from 4th Grade

Posted by on Oct 12, 2015 in News | Comments Off on Poems from 4th Grade

Harvest

Ripe, busy

Gather, pick, celebrate

It’s food for winter.

Delighted!

Anthony —— Grade 4

Football

Fast, rough

Defend, run, tackle

They score a touchdown.

Victory!

Grade 4

Pumpkins

Bumpy, heavy

Roll, sit, glow

We make pumpkin pie.

Yummy!

Nataly —— Grade 4