Engaging with Esperanza

An interview with Robin Miller the director of Esperanza, an after school program for ELL's.

Esperanza+kids+practicing+for+their+performance+at+the+public+library.

Nathan Jackson

Esperanza kids practicing for their performance at the public library.

Araceli Villa Ayala
Robin Miller (left) and Josue (right)attending Josue’s parents’ wedding.

Children all across the county struggle in school because English is a second language to them. Fortunately, there are programs meant to help these children, like the one here in Woodford: Esperanza. “Esperanza was created for students coming from families where English is not the primary language,” said Robin Miller, the director of the program.

Robin Miller, or Mrs. Robin as the students call her, has been the director of Esperanza since its inception in the spring of 2017. Miller believes that students who are learning a new language should still be accepted for their heritage and who they are.

Nathan Jackson
Hector (left) and Alex (right) are two rambunctious kids who have been coming to Esperanza for about 2 months.

Esperanza is very helpful for English-language learners, or ELLs, because they are provided with one on one mentorship to help them with homework. According to Miller, “…anyone acquiring a language needs as much language support as possible and there is a lot of evidence to suggest that the most common factor that you find amongst successful bilingual students is the support they receive, so we want to make sure we give all the students the lion share of support so that they have the best possible chance to succeed.” Miller told the story of a girl in first grade who was struggling with reading and wasn’t on track to reach a 17 reading level by the end of the year, the target reading level for someone leaving first grade. However, according to Miller, “…she received a lot of love and support that year and she ended up leaving first grade at a level 24 or something remarkable like that…”

Nathan Jackson
Hector painting an ornament for his craft.

This program is more than just a place for kids to find help with homework. It has games, snacks, arts and crafts, and music time providing the children with a safe, fun and beneficial environment. The program also has special events around holidays. One example was on Saturday, December 14th when the kids sang Christmas songs at the public library.

Esperanza is clearly a wonderful program but it is in need of volunteers. The program has grown from aiding 20 kids to almost 50. This large number of children make the small space it is held in chaotic. Also, there are about 80 other kids who could benefit from this program, but they can’t fit. For these reasons, Miller wants to move to have Esperanza run for two nights of the week, but she doesn’t have enough volunteers to do so.

A lot of people think to be a mentor in this program you need to be able to speak Spanish or something but that’s not true, the best quality our mentors have is love.”

— Robin Miller

 

Volunteering doesn’t require much according to Miller, “A lot of people think to be a mentor in this program you need to be able to speak Spanish or something but that’s not true, the best quality our mentors have is love.” The volunteers vary greatly in age, skill level, and Spanish speaking ability but they do all have three things that Robin Miller looks for: maturity, commitment, and, most importantly, love.

Esperanza meets every Tuesday from 3 to 5 at the Versailles Presbyterian Church. If you are interested in being a volunteer, contact Robin Miller at her email: [email protected]. If you’d like to see more information about past and upcoming events with Esperanza you can visit their Facebook page.