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Student Volunteers Offer Free English Classes to Hundreds of Locals

by Katherine Gortz on 11/08/2018

More than 500 new and returning students are enrolled in SLU-Madrid’s Community ESL program this semester. But they are not traditional college students. Instead, they are members of the Madrid community who take free English language conversation classes taught by 51 student volunteers.

Community ESL volunteers teach free English classes.

Two days a week, Alyssa Cottreu (pictured above with her class) teams up with a fellow student volunteer to teach English conversation classes as part of the SLU-Madrid Community ESL program. Cottreu is studying abroad from Gonzaga University this semester. 

Eve Hemingway, a visiting student from Loyola University Chicago, said she knew she wanted to volunteer during her semester abroad and found out about Community ESL on the SLU-Madrid website. 

“Essentially, I was on board from the beginning," she said. "I wanted to get to know people in the area… and I wanted to teach English.”

The experience has been fulfilling since she can tell that she is helping people, she said. And she has enjoyed learning about teaching, a field that interests her.

Founded in 2002, the program follows the spirit of SLU’s Jesuit mission, with its commitment to service the community. The program taps into one of SLU-Madrid’s natural resources — native speakers of English — in an effort to meet the increasing need for English language proficiency by the Madrid community. SLU-Madrid student volunteers also develop deeper connections with the people who live in Madrid, whose eagerness to build their language skills is a lesson in itself about the importance of lifelong learning.

Along with the many service and community engagement programs organized by SLU-Madrid’s Division of Student Life, this faculty-led initiative charges students to be responsible educators and leaders.

“The experience is incredibly rewarding for students,” commented Program Director Hamish Binns. “It’s a weekly commitment for the whole semester, but the student-teachers who participate learn as much about language and themselves as their adult students.”