SHS student tutors kindergarteners

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Senior Jenny Serrano work with students in Clinton Young Elementary School. Photo given by Jenny Serrano (Senior Jenny Serrano trabaja con los niños en Clinton Young Elementary School. Foto presentada por Jenny Serrano)

María Cuevas-Ramirez, José Xicotencatl

In Perry Township, many Latino students do not speak English while others speak and understand English very well.  Both groups of students face language barriers because they often do not know academic language. According to Mrs. Laptiste, English language teacher at Clinton Young Elementary School, academic success depends on students’ ability to read, comprehend, and write.  She works with students to read and write at grade level.  Senior, Jenny Serrano who is of Mexican descent, worked with Laptiste during grades 2 through 5.  This support helped Serrano to experience success throughout her school career and also to be able to tutor young students who face the same language challenges.  As part of her advanced Spanish class, Serrano returns to Laptiste’s class on Friday afternoons to work with English learners.

Not only did Laptiste help Serrano with her English skills, but she has given her the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of bilingual children.  According to Laptiste, Serrano motivates students to study and work hard so that maybe they can return in the future to tutor others.  For Serrano, this project has been very rewarding and working with the students brings her joy.

“It makes me feel good because I am giving the students the opportunity to overcome their challenges,” Serrano said.

Serrano works with two kindergarten students.  Often she plays games with them to focus on learning basic concepts, such as the alphabet and numbers.  In addition to assisting them academically, she serves as a role model and friend.

“I help them in many ways. I’m not just someone who teaches them, but they also see me as a friend.”  Serrano said.

Jenny was comfortable in elementary school because she made friends with English speakers too, but there were occasional times when she felt left out because she did not understand them.  According to Serrano, her presence is a good experience for students because they have someone who speaks the same language and can explain things clearly when they have difficulty understanding.  Laptiste agrees that it is good for the student to work with someone who shares a similar background.  

“Jenny knows what it’s like to learn another language, and it makes her more compassionate and understanding.  She’s great with them (the students),” Laptiste said.

Laptiste’s goal for her students is that they be literate in both Spanish and English.  Not many people are able to accomplish this task so she is especially proud of Serrano, her success, and the way she works with the students.  

“I feel so proud to watch her work with the kids… It has been a blessing to have Jenny come back and to see those dreams you have as a teacher come true.”  

Although Serrano does not plan to pursue a career in education, she sees this as a positive experience and a way to support the program that helped her.  After graduating, she plans to attend college and pursue a career in physical therapy.

For Laptiste, Serrano’s contributions positively impact her students.  

“You can talk about it all you want, but with Jenny, they get to see it.  She makes the dream a reality, “Laptiste said.