Education

Duke students hold free, virtual, English tutoring classes to help Hispanic community during pandemic

Posted September 15, 2020 4:55 p.m. EDT
Updated September 15, 2020 6:21 p.m. EDT

— Members of the Hispanic community often face obstacles when it comes to coronavirus. That includes language barriers that slow the process of receiving critical information.

There is a group of Duke University students working to bridge that gap. In a time where everyone is physically distant, these students have created a virtual space to help non-English speakers remain socially connected to the world.

"In COVID, there is a greater need, because there is so much important health information, important social distancing information, and many people need that translated and interpreted," said Jake Diner, co-president of Duke Gente Aprendiendo Para Nuevas Oportunidades (People Learning for New Opportunities).

The pandemic has emphasized these challenges surrounding communication. These three Duke students are leading efforts to help fix the disconnect.

“We’ve been able to build a community that exists in this virtual space. And that was the one worry we had going in, thinking we really want to be able to provide worthwhile classes," said Bates Crawford, Diner’s co-president.

Duke GANO, a student-run organization, offers free one-on-one English language tutoring to Hispanic Durham residents. It recently moved from on-campus to online.

“We’ve actually been able to expand our reach in ways we didn’t expect," said Erica Langan, the vice president of Durham Outreach.

"We’ve been doing a 2:1 ratio of tutors to tutees, ahen we typically aim for a 1:1 ratio," added Crawford.

As the interest level and the need continues to grow, it highlights the significant role this plays in changing lives.

"It’s an exchange of stories, and it’s making connection with people," said Langan.

"It’s not even about the language, fundamentally, or about Spanish versus English. It’s about the community and the dynamic that you have," added Crawford.

The classes are offered twice a week from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday on Zoom. The fall session will run until mid-November, and students can go to any number of sessions and start or end whenever they choose.

Anyone interested just needs to have access to a computer or phone with camera and WiFi in order to participate.

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