Esperanza Center Volunteer Experience

Esperanza Center Volunteer Experience

For my activist project I volunteered with the Esperanza Center located on South Broadway Street in Baltimore. The Esperanza Center is an extensive immigrant resource center that provides a safe, compassionate space in addition to important access to resources for people who have just arrived in the United States. The Esperanza Center provides a comprehensive list of services including healthcare, legal services, ESL education, and referrals for other immigrant services.

I served as an ESL education volunteer every Wednesday evening.  In addition to my role as an educator it was important to create a safe and open space for my students. As an immigrant myself, I know that being in a new country can often be a lonely, scary, and isolating experience. The current political climate can make immigrants feel even more unwelcome. Before I began my lesson I would engage with my students in a friendly and welcoming manner; asking them how their day has been, how long they’ve been in the US, if they like the city of Baltimore, and any other conversation topics they feel they want to share with me. This helps to establish rapport and makes both of us more comfortable with each other.

I found that with my more advanced students it is more effective for us to just have an informal conversation instead of strictly following the curriculum given. Through conversation, my students improved their pronunciation skills and built confidence in their speaking-skills. We also exchanged cultural references and humor respective to our national backgrounds- which made it a lively as well as educational experience for both of us. This opportunity gave my students the room to speak about things that interest them in a positive and encouraging space. The students I worked with at the Esperanza Center were inspiring and eager to learn. I was struck by how hard-working and dedicated they were. Many of them worked long shifts and still showed up every week so they could improve their English.

I have learned that activism doesn’t have to mean going to every rally and protest. Activism can mean donating your time to a cause you care about. The Esperanza Center would not be able to run and serve the immigrant population if it wasn’t for its legion of dedicated and kind-hearted volunteers. My volunteer experience changed my relationship with activism because it made me aware of how expansive activism really is- and how many different forms of activism there are. Providing direct services is a powerful form of activism. This project was important to me because it gave me the chance to give back and learn more about different cultures.

Learn more about the Esperanza Center:

Only One of the Many

10 Things the US Government Got Right (And Promptly Ruined) - America’s public schools are overwhelmingly financed through the collection of property taxes. That means that poor neighborhoods equal low property values, which equals low spending on public schools.

Riverview Elementary School is a Title I school, in which most students come from low-income families and receive federal funding. More than 95% of students receive federal funding at Riverview. Though Riverview receives federal funding, the school’s academic performance is inadequate like most other public schools that are Title I. To show Riverview’s poor academic performance, I have researched their third-grade class Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) Language Arts test scores:

  • 6% of students did not expectations on PARCC
  • 2% of students partially met expectations on PARCC
  • 5% of students approached expectations on PARCC
  • 6% of students met expectation on PARCC
  • Less than 5% of students exceeded expectation on PARCC

So, only about 24.6% of students performed well on the test while 78.3% of students did not.

Riverview PARCC

Now, I am not saying we need to teach students to perform well on tests, but why are students at low-income community schools doing worse than other students at high-income community schools?

At Severna Park Elementary School, a high-income community public school in Anne Arundel County, the PARCC test scores are:

  • Less than 5% not meeting expectations
  • Less than 5% of students partially meeting expectations
  • 4% of students approaching expectations
  • 3% of students meeting expectations
  • 1% of students exceeding expectations

Severna Park PARCC

The majority of students at Severna Park Elementary School are white and the majority of students are African-American at Riverview Elementary Schools with a large Spanish community.

Severna Park Race and Ethnicity

Race and Ethnicity at Riverview

These statistics are important to look at because they show us that we have an unequal public-school system here in the United States of America. An unequal education is established by a student’s family socio-economic background, race and ethnicity, academic performance, and by the resources provided to the students.

In late August of 2017, I decided I wanted to do service-learning at the Shriver-Center at UMBC. In October, I became a teacher’s assistant at Riverview Elementary School for a third-grade class where I helped my students build strong literacy skills, while building positive relationships with them.

In the third-grade class that I helped assist, there were six students below reading grade-level. One of my students approached me and said that she didn’t like reading her books, because they were too easy for her. I then read ono-on-one with her to see where she was at with her reading ability and I found that she stumbles on some words, but overall, she reads efficiently. I then had her choose a chapter book for us to read together while I helped her sound out the words she didn’t know and asked her questions about the book to make sure she understood what she was reading. In addition, I took notes on the story, so when I would read with her the next time, she would not forget what happened and would understand the story better.

I also found that my other students below reading grade-level were reading books that were unchallenging and I also sat down with them individually to read with them one-on-one. Unfortunately, I could not do this every time I volunteered at Riverview because of their schedule and the major projects they had to do. I think having more time at my service-site would have benefited my students more and would have helped me improve their academic abilities. However, I did find that having my students read out loud and tracking what they are readings is a lot better than them reading on i-ready, a website that assists students in learning how to spell and sound out words.

In addition to working with my students become better readers, I also worked with them to become better writers. Some of my students struggled with structuring their sentences and paragraphs, or even writing down their ideas in a coherent way. I found only helping them structure their paragraphs with transition words and correcting misspelled words, assured me that they were thinking on their own.

I wanted to volunteer at Riverview Elementary School to gain teaching skills, because I planned on doing Teach for Americaafter graduation. However, my students showed me that I want to make a career out of bringing an equal education to all children in the United States. Volunteering at Riverview, helped me notice the discrimination in low-income community schools more clearly. It helped me see the ignorance to the issue and that some people don’t know what a Title I school is.

If I were to volunteer again to help students thrive in their academics, I would definitely go to my service-site more than two days a week. I also would communicate more with the teacher to see what I can do to have a greater effect on the student’s academic performance. I would want to work more ono-one-one with my students below reading grade-level to see through chapter books with them.

Through doing this activism project, I learned that I will continue this work throughout the course of my life. I learned that feminist activism does not only have to be about fighting for women’s rights but fighting for equality for all those who are marginalized. An unequal education prevents, both girls and boys, from achieving gender equality. In addition to, it cripples their right as a human being to have a quality education, one that is not affected by their socio-economic background. In order for women and men to be equal, they all need to be equal through the social, economic, and political domains.

I also learned that in order to make real change in the world, we cannot think practical. For instance, charter schools and financial assistance are only going to prolong the problem, they are not the solution to solving the issue. We need to establish an equal education for students altogether in the United Sates without the need of financial assistance and the need to open up charter schools in low-income areas. We need more teachers, we need after-school programs, we need to give all academic subjects equal value, and we need to give students the opportunity to be taught humanity.



Volunteering at MS Swim– Where’s the Activism??

Volunteering at MS Swim– Where’s the Activism??

Starting off at MS Swim, I genuinely did not think of it as a form of activism. I have volunteered routinely at various organizations since I was 14, and it has just become a way of life for me. However after going through this course, Studies in Feminist Activism, I have come to understand the true activism that takes place through volunteer work.

Continue reading


For my activist project I decided to get involved in Service Learning. One of the most important questions I had to answer for the rest of the class was whether Service Learning was a true form of activism. Activism is defined by the ability to accomplish social or political change. Well, many people may think that doing Service Learning is not a form of activism because one may not be actually achieving a goal in order to change society. However, I believe that my work this semester was extremely influential and positive for the community and for myself. Continue reading