Internship Reflections by Ryan Schultheis (University of Notre Dame Undergraduate, Intern)

Breaking a language barrier has been both an adventure and a blessing. As a summer volunteer at the Brady Center from the University of Notre Dame, I have had the pleasure of guiding six dedicated Hispanic women through the contours of the English language. In the past two months, my students and I have engaged in 14 classes and 28 hours of English language acquisition. Although our time has been limited, the students’ progress is both remarkable and inspirational. Learning a foreign language is a difficult task, one filled with mistakes, embarrassment, and trepidation. Fortunately, my students have embraced their errors – sus temores – and have turned them into progress. The students took an entry and exit exam, increasing their class average by 32 percentage points in just two months. Not only did this group of courageous Hispanic women surpass my expectations, but most importantly, they surpassed their own.

Having mastered the alphabet, numbers, essential vocabulary, fundamental grammar structures, and basic conversation skills, my students are ready, eager, and have the confidence to learn more – and they need to. The English language is a tool that will undoubtedly enable my students and many more clients of Catholic Charities of Dallas to become financially stable, more self-sufficient, and better advocates for themselves and their families. As a volunteer and observer of Catholic Charities of Dallas for the past two months, it is obvious that the organization dedicates its resources to breaking the cycle of poverty. Breaking a language barrier is the first step to rebuilding lives and creating opportunity in the United States. I was blessed with the opportunity to teach, but regret that I am not able to continue the process. My students took advantage of every learning moment in the classroom; my hope is that they will continue to be able to do so.