New UD Club Assists Immigrant Students in Dayton Public Schools

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Meg Deneen 
Contributing Writer

The new UD club Teaching English Language Learners (TELL) provides the growing number of immigrant students in Dayton public schools (DPS) with supplementary education.

Members provide extra academic assistance on weekdays to immigrant junior high and high school students at Belmont High School, Wright Brothers Elementary School and Christ the King Church. The academic assistance includes helping students with homework or having casual conversations with students to enhance their English skills.

Erin Steiner, 19, a tutor at Belmont High School, said her primary role in tutoring sessions is to improve her students’ conversation skills.

“By tutoring, I am helping to improve [their] English skills that are so fundamentally important to success in America,” Steiner said.

In 2016, the Dayton area’s immigrant population had doubled to 7,000 people. The newest members are from the Ahiska Turkish, African, Western Indian and Middle Eastern communities, according to a data analysis conducted by the Dayton Daily News.

The city of Dayton provides programs for refugee families to assimilate to the culture. A program for adult refugees, The Welcome Dayton Project, educates and assists adults in learning English. But few programs focus on the needs of children.

According to the DPS website, there is 16 percent immigrant student enrollment, the largest it has ever been. Eight hundred of 13,000 Dayton public school students are English language learners and 11 languages are spoken, according to DPS.

The Immigration Policy Center of the American Immigration Council said that more than 87 percent of Ohio children with immigrant parents are English-proficient. Most of the children can speak English well enough to get by, but they need to work at a slower pace to comprehend class lectures.

Robin Josefczyk of Dayton started the program Room at the Table, which created the TELL program at UD, to provide high school and elementary school students with assistance in classes.

Josefczyk asked Corinth Presbyterian parishioners, No Longer Strangers Ministry members and UD students to assist her in providing supplementary education to the immigrant student population in Dayton.

TELL club presidents, juniors Connor Lynch and Lindsey Harper, have tutored immigrant children through Room at the Table since January 2018.

Lynch helped a sixth-grade student last year and saw growth in his student’s confidence when doing his homework and interacting with his peers. His growth inspired Lynch to continue tutoring immigrant children and helped to create his passion of learning about the struggles that refugee families face, especially children, when immigrating.

Tutoring sessions are one-on-one between the immigrant student and the UD student, allowing them to focus on what they feel they need the most assistance in.

TELL strives to personalize the program for each student’s individual needs. If a student needs extra assistance in reading, the tutor can focus their attention on improving reading skills, Harper said. Harper’s student was proficient in English, but needed extra assistance with homework.

Immigrant students appreciate that they have their own personal tutor, Lynch said. Tutors must be dedicated to the club because tutoring takes place once a week for the entire semester.

“UD students will get out what they put in and hopefully the experience will be beneficial for both the college and immigrant student,” Harper said.

The club has grown to 50 tutors. To get involved, contact Lynch or Harper at lynchc6@udayton.edu or harperl3@udayton.edu.

Photo taken from Wikimedia Commons