Collaborative program between UVM and BHS is helping new English learners

Local News
This semester, students in UVM’s language studies teamed up with Burlington High School’s afterschool program for a new collaborative literacy program. 
 
“To help our Burlington High School English language learners gain better English skills and for the UVM students to tutor and teach our students,” said Sheryl Haiduck, Site Director of Expanded Learning Opportunities at BHS. 
 
Twice a week, the college students spent time at BHS assisting with grammar, writing, and homework assignments, as well as fun games. English learners were paired up with a UVM student for the length of the semester.
 
“The pairs, right away, were able to get along and find things in common,” Haiduck said. 
 
Patient Mwibeleca and Peter Hibbeler were one of the teams paired together. Patient moved to Vermont from Congo, Africa last year.
 
“When I first came here, I had no friends and I was not talking to people,” Patient said. “It was hard for me to speak English because I wasn’t talking to anybody.”
 
That all changed when he started working with Peter each week.
 
“We bonded immediately over soccer and a video game named FIFA,” Peter said. “Finding that one thing gave us something to talk about when we came in while also getting the academic stuff done.”
 
The two became fast friends and Patient said he’s become much more confident in carrying conversations at school and in the community.
 
“It was hard for me to make sentences by myself, so this program has really helped me in making sentences,” Patient said.
 
For Peter, who’s working toward becoming a teacher, he said it’s an experience he will carry forward. 
“It’s vital in making sure you reach every student at the school, not just designing something for one group,” Peter said.
 
As the program continues next semester, educators hope to take it outside of the classroom and have pairs work on their language skills while volunteering, among other activities.

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