Tabor students have a growing presence in the New Bedford community. Tabor’s work in our neighboring city over the past several years through service days, orientation trips, and special projects with local schools, helped us into conversations that have led to in-depth service learning opportunities facilitated by local agencies such as the Community Economic Development Center and the Immigrants’ Assistance Center.
Three years ago, Spanish teacher Jon Sirois initiated a conversation with Corinn Williams, Director of the Community Economic Development Center, to see how his Spanish students might meaningfully engage with recently arrived immigrants as they adapted to their new city. While the episodes center around student-led English classes, his students often use their Spanish skills to facilitate communication (about two-thirds of the language learners speak Spanish; others speak Portuguese and Cape Verdean Creole, among other languages). They also learn about different cultures, and perhaps most importantly, start to understand the perspective of others, recognizing and celebrating their differences and shared humanity. This project, now called Juntos, began slowly and has grown into a student-run evening activity twice a week open to all students—no Spanish required! Students in the club make the schedule, arrange the transportation and faculty coverage, and train one other on how to best engage their partners. This year, over sixty students and faculty members are involved. It has been a smashing success and our students love it.
Inspired by the commitment and positive energy our students and faculty brought to this work, Sirois contacted Helena DaSilva Hughes, executive director of the New Bedford Immigrants’ Assistance Center in late 2017 to explore ways Tabor students could further engage in the community. After much planning with Mel Bride, Dean of Community Life, the rest of the Spanish 4 team, Ms. DaSilva Hughes and Principal Dan Bossolt, the AMIGOS Project was launched in early 2018 at Roosevelt Middle School. A revived program that lost funding in 2009, AMIGOS aims to foster mentor-mentee relationships built on empathy and trust. In addition to mentors, Tabor students are English tutors, role models and friends. Roosevelt is home to a high number of refugee children whose families have fled turbulence in their home countries, as well as dozens of others displaced by Hurricane María. The challenge for our students is to carefully and patiently ask the students to trust them, enabling a relationship that enriches them both. It took a while to work out a regular schedule, but today, students in the four sections of Spanish 4 head to New Bedford at 7:30 AM whenever their section meets first block to work with their mentees for an hour. Tabor is at Roosevelt one to two mornings a week and will have visited about 30 times by year’s end!
Recognizing the tremendous experiential learning options available to our capable students, we are eager to build on our success through more mutually beneficial partnerships in multiple disciplines. There is no doubt: Getting beyond the bubble is good for Tabor!
2018-2019 AMIGOS Reflections:
Savannah Leao ‘19 (New Bedford, MA)
While at Roosevelt I felt very proud and happy seeing my classmates come and get a little glimpse into what being in New Bedford is like, because there are so many people like the students at Roosevelt all over New Bedford. It felt a bit weird too, mixing both of my worlds together, because when I think of Tabor and New Bedford, I think of two very different places, full of very different people. It was satisfying watching both of my worlds mix together.
Ellyn Cunningham ’20 (Chicago, IL)
For me, I learned a lot about the challenges with connecting with other people who may
not seem a lot like you on the outside, and using your connections to benefit the students’
learning. A young girl I worked with would not pay any attention to me until I showed her that I
too wore a cross around my neck, showing her that both of us connect through our religion. This
gave her the ability to want to talk more with me and get more work done. Also, she and I were
both learning each other’s first language, so she would enjoy hearing me attempt to speak in
Spanish while she spoke in English, so we were both learning a lot from each other.
2018-2019 JUNTOS Reflections:
Olivia Justice ’22 (Atlanta, GA)
Today was my first day volunteering with Juntos, and it was an amazing, memorable experience. My partner, Chika, and I taught Edson how to communicate preferences in books, music, and movies. Edson’s English is good enough to convey basic ideas, but he has already improved so much after the hour we spent with him. We worked on lesson one, which included sentences expressing likes, dislikes, and love. We also wanted to go a little more in depth, so we talked about conjunctions as well as how conjunctions are more informal than expanded versions of words. The time went by so fast, but we learned so much about each other. Edson even shared with us some Angolan music as we worked. I really enjoyed working with Edson and I look forward to doing this again!
Thad Lettsome ’20 (USVI)
Carlos seemed nervous at first which is totally expected as I was nervous as well. However, he quickly opened up to us all and it made for a great hour of learning.
Georgia Toland ’20 (Marion, MA)
Working with Eleanor and Hopie to not only teach Miranda English but to help build her confidence in speaking was a great experience I’m grateful I got to help with! We spent the time going over directions and relative locations, discussing terms and using maps from the workbook, seeing steady improvement the whole time. Towards the end of the meeting we got to know Miranda and learned that she is interested in business, is from Puerto Rico and, like me, is a junior (which makes learning a new language extra impressive)!
Juntos student leader, Phoebe Dias ’19 (Norfolk, MA)
Sarah and I worked with Teodora on level 3a. She is from Angola, and speaks primarily Portuguese but could also do some conversing in Spanish. She was very focused and committed, and we moved quickly through the material. She was showing us adorable pictures of her daughter. She’s 9 months old and seems to be a big part of her motivation for learning English! We seemed to have a good connection with Teodora and I look forward to working more with her. She is very eager!
Chris Barry ’19 (Hingham, MA)
This is my second year participating in Juntos and I find it to be an extremely rewarding experience. Every time I go it makes me have an even greater respect for how hard the English language is to learn. I worked primarily with a young boy named Eduardo from Puerto Rico. It was an awesome experience to have a conversation with him and to see the smile on his face when he said something right or drew the correct letter. I look forward to working with Juntos for the rest of the year!