Agency Reflection: Lydia Hamel

I work at HCMC and working there has opened my eyes to quite a few critical issues that are seen in Minneapolis, MN but are also seen around the US. The one I noticed that surprised me the most was someone who came in and could not speak English but reported that his or her profession was a taxi driver. This struck me in an astonishing way when I realized taxi drivers, driving in the US, were not required to speak English. I could not imagine trying to maneuver my way around any town without being able to read or speak the language, yet alone have a profession that would require literacy of the language daily on the job. Which brings me to my tutoring volunteer experience. On my first day of tutoring at Hennepin County Libraries, I was introduced to a young girl who needed excessive help on her math and global studies homework, but could not read English and could speak very little English. My first thought was “How can I help a girl with whom I can barely hold a conversation with?” It took me a very long time to help this girl with simple math problems. By the end of the day I was quite frustrated. Not because she could not speak or read English, but because I did not think I was capable of helping these students who were mostly Somali .

I have not yet educated myself more about this issue; however, I believe it would be quite interesting to look into. There is a large population of Somali  students I tutor at the library and having more background information would be very beneficial to further understand not only how to help them, but also just how to relate to them while I am helping them and to understand them more.

Actions could be taken by the parents to enroll their children and possibly even themselves in English courses to get a basic understanding of the English language and further in life possibly even a more in depth courses to further expand their English dictionary so they can communicate fluently and excel in school. Actions could also be taken by higher government figures to help Somalis and other immigrants get access to English courses so they can learn how to speak and read the language after or possibly even before immigrating to the US.

Some barriers or limitations that keep people from acting in response to this critical issue may be that the immigrants may feel intimidated by English speakers and may be afraid to enroll in courses that will help them learn the language. Access for funding may also be limiting people from acting on the issue of further educating immigrants who are non-English speaking. Other barriers and limitations that keep US citizens from acting in response could be the various controversial issues occurring in the world and the time of war that we are in. This could inhibit people from standing up for immigrants and perhaps make them hesitant to help them succeed in America.

Some advantages of different approaches may be that certain immigrants may learn in various ways so having options of how to excel in the US and schools in the US. Another advantage of different approaches may be that some immigrants may be less financially stable than others. Having different options of how to get access to learn the English language may help those who do not have money have access to different opportunities that may not have been possible had there only been one very expensive option. A disadvantage may be that people who cannot speak English may not be willing to voluntarily attend classes to help them read and speak English while living in the US. Finding funding for various programs may also be difficult and pose as a disadvantage as well.

It would be nice if Hennepin County Libraries could also offer simple, free English courses for those who are unable to afford to seek additional education. This would be difficult though as it is hard to find people who are willing to volunteer to tutor kids. Perhaps if there was more funding it would be easier, but if people were willing to volunteer their time, or work for minimal pay to teach those in need, it would be really cool to see this action go into plan!


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