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The Night School ESL Serve and Learn Team | Ashlie Busone '14
Every Monday and Tuesday night I drive 17 minutes down Route 128, walk through 3 sets of open doors, up two flights of highly trafficked stairs, and am transported into a different world. When I enter, I am greeted in at least a dozen different languages and am ushered to the front of a fairly tiny classroom to assume the role of “Teacher.” In front of a room full of adult English Language Learners, I am learning some of the most valuable lessons that Gordon has to offer: my team and I are breathing salt and light, we are Gordon in Lynn.
The Night School provides ESL (English as a Second Language) and GED lessons for adults in the city of Lynn. Dr. Claire Crane of the Ford Elementary School spearheaded this project almost a decade ago, and has since worked to do justice in Lynn by teaching the parents and friends of the students she serves at her Public and Community-centered school. With more than 3 different ESL levels, teachers from the Ford School along with Gordon Students work to convey lessons of language and culture to eager and grateful adult-learners.
Both Monday and Tuesday evenings are spent in large and small-group settings while Gordon SALTeam members lead lessons and build relationships. Monday’s SALTeam is compiled of 8 First Year Students, and Tuesday’s has 6. Both groups teach in the same classroom of 50+ adults. While I, as the Intern, plan the lessons each week, SALTeam members implement them; demonstrating scenarios and teaching grammar rules in front of a large group of students, as well as holding conversations and practicing pronunciation with small groups of 4-6 students.
The lessons are typically fun as well as practical, as we aim to teach things that will be useful in every day life for these adults who are new to America, or new to Lynn. Our SALTeam members can, at any time, be found caught up in an intense game of Simon Says (to demonstrate body parts), or having a heart-to-heart conversation with an elderly couple who offers them advice or extends an invitation to church or to a home-cooked and authentic meal!
The most important vision, held by each SALTeam member and Ford School staff member, is to create a sense of community and belonging through shared knowledge and love. More than any grammatical or lexical excellence, we aim to create a common vocabulary of shalom: a peace and understanding between people so different that we begin to wonder why, if at all, we ever found it difficult to love one another in the first place.
Twirling dodgeball and free break dancing | Lizzie Vollmer '15
At the beginning of every KAYA (Khmer American Youth in Action) meeting, we begin with a Cambodian greeting: “joom-ree-up soo-a”, while gathered in a circle, hands pressed together in front of our chests. Then a slightly less Khmer tradition: going around the room one by one, and each person says their name, gives a “mood check” (a scale of how well they were doing), and then answers a silly question-of-the-day to break the ice.
After the meeting, the kids can choose to go to different activity stations, each headed up by a Gordon student. Dodge ball has been a favorite among the KAYA youth, and a few rounds are often played each Tuesday.
The first time we played dodge ball with the kids, we realized that this was no normal “recess game game.” Instead of dodging the soaring nerf balls, these kids were flipping and twirling out of the way. We had heard that many of the kids had been taking break dance lessons, and we were shocked to see how their new dance moves manifested themselves in beastly dodge ball skills. When a few of the kids were practicing in the dance studio the following week, a few Gordon students peeked our heads in to see some more gravity defying moves.
Those hours spent watching the KAYA kids break dance were perhaps the most eye opening for me. Steven, one of the better dancers, explained to me that there were no rules; this sort of dancing was free. Whatever you felt in the music, you did. It was pure art, just pouring emotion into movement, and the only way you could be wrong was to think too much. Whenever someone was getting stuck, they were told, “Don’t think, just move!” A friend and I attempted to learn the basic steps. After willing my arms to hold the rest of me in the air, I fell numerous times to my embarrassment. The kids all took the time to kindly turn around and laugh, but then they were patient and worked with me to learn more. There was no pressure or schedule to keep; laughter and fun was the only aim of the afternoon.
I have really enjoyed working with the KAYA kids through my Great Conversation course. It was difficult at first to build relationships, and it took awhile for them to trust us, but the hard work has paid off. I am going to miss seeing them every Tuesday, but I am excited for the next group of Gordon students that gets to work at KAYA.
FUSING CHEMISTRY AND COMMUNITY | Ben Skinner, '11
The first words that come to mind when thinking of community engagement in Lynn are probably not “redox reactions”, “electrons”, and “cubic centimeters converted to milliliters”. Yet, for Ben Stewart, the mission of Gordon’s chapter of the American Chemical Society is perfectly compatible with the tutoring that he does at La Vida Inc. every Friday afternoon. The Chapter’s goals include, “Encourage the growth of the Gordon community and surrounding community in science appreciation”, and “Explore the area of being a science-minded Christian person in a non-Christian world.” Since Lynn is part of the “surrounding community”, Stewart, Bria Pelletier, and Daniel Adam, all ACS chapter members, enjoy helping members of the La Vida Scholars Program every week in Chemistry, Physics, and even AP U.S. History.
Clearly, the students and tutors work hard academically. Jose Olivares, an 11th grader who typically partners with Stewart, explains his reason for coming regularly to the sessions: “The simple fear of receiving a grade lower than a B motivates me to continue on.”
Olivares journeys through the college admissions process with other La Vida Scholars Program members. The program includes standardized test preparation and assistance with applications. Its members are Hispanic Lynn high school students who perform well in school, and are picked through a selective application process between 9th and 10th grade to participate. Olivares appreciates the ways the Scholars Program has helped him on the road to college. “Now, in my junior year, La Vida is focusing on SATs. Through several practice tests and techniques, I have improved my score by over 200 points.” He is aiming at attending a high-ranking school, and has most enjoyed the program’s visits to schools such as Harvard University, Union College, and Williams College.
The Gordon students shared how difficult it is to recall subject matter they haven’t seen since high school, and they concentrate to help the Scholars as much as they can. “I like the aha moments, not only from the students, but from the tutors,” remarks Adam on this challenge. The tutors ease the tension of difficult subjects by laughing and joking. Both groups trade stories about teachers and classes. Olivares remarks, “The tutors are also providing me with advice about colleges, something that not all my classmates are receiving.”
Importantly, the ACS tutors share a favorable perspective on the city of Lynn and have enjoyed their experience helping these students learn. Stewart says, “Knowing that other kids value my time is rewarding.” Pelletier appreciates seeing “that there are people willing to go the extra mile.” Says Adam, “They’re just a great group of young men and women.”