This semester I decided that I would make my volunteer service at the Esperanza Center as my activist project. I made this decision because I had already been volunteering there since the Fall semester and it involves working with a population that I am very interested with working with (which is the immigrant, specifically the Latino immigrant population).
The Esperanza Center is an organization that provides medical services, legal services, and English lessons to immigrants of the area who cannot afford them or do not have access to these services otherwise. I volunteer as an English teacher where I go every Thursday and have one to two students that I work with. The English program that is provided is an eight week program, each week focusing on a different topic – such as daily routine – and the volunteers are in charge of helping them develop whatever amount of skills that they may already have. We do this through work book activities, games and conversation and every class is completely different because it depends on the skill level of the student(s). Since I had already been volunteering at the center I decided that for this activist project I would reflect more on the work that I was personally doing, focus on the overall efficiency of the center, and on talking more about my work at my service site (as a form to advocate for the need of volunteers and on the importance of helping the Latino immigrant population). This semester I noticed some more of the issues of the program. I noticed that one of the problems was that so many different volunteers were going in and out (inconsistence in staff) of Esperanza and furthermore volunteers are encouraged to not work with the same student multiple times. This inconsistency does not help the students because then they have to learn how to be comfortable with making mistakes with a new teacher every time they attend a session. And from a teaching perspective it is hard also because you have to learn a new student’s skill level and learning style every time, which from a logistical standpoint wastes approximately half an hour from the one hour and forty-five minute session (not counting the fifteen minute break).
For my activist project I decided to speak out more about the work the I do at the Esperanza Center and while I was actually volunteering. I started by working with the same couple of students every week. I did find this to be more efficient when it came to getting more work done. During my project I also spoke out a lot more about my volunteer work to anyone who would listen. I would mention it on every tour that I would give (since I work as a tour guide for the admissions office), I would make connections between the Latino immigrant population and the readings from my public policy course, and I would even talk to my friends and family more about it. However, if I were to do this activist project again I would take a more direct approach and present my ideas to the staff of the center in order to see some more effective changes permanently made.
This experience has opened my eyes to activism in general. I have always had an idea of what activism was, but it was mainly the image of people picketing and protesting for a super important and controversial cause. Through this course (GWST 200) and my activist project I now know that I am an activist. I may not be out protesting but I do speak out. I speak out on my values, beliefs, and ideas on a daily basis. I also act on my values and beliefs and I now know that all those little things I do on a daily basis are a form of activism. After this course and this project I hope to continue being an activist and hopefully one day move on to bigger activist projects.