Nancy Gomez, a 5th year Psychology and Spanish Community and Culture major, knows firsthand what it feels like to not speak the local language of a community. Her personal struggle learning English as a Second Language (ESL) as a child fueled her passion to help others faced with the difficult challenge of not knowing English. Nancy, who is now a tutor in Project SPELL, meets twice a week with a UCLA employee in order to provide ESL tutoring at the employee’s workplace.
Nancy says she joined Project SPELL because she was inspired by those who helped her in elementary school. “People always helped me conquer the errors I had in English, and I saw Project SPELL as an opportunity to give back,” she says.
Project SPELL has also had a positive impact on her life. “I think it has affected my life positively in that I have been thinking about what I want to do, especially since I’m about to graduate in June,” she says. “Project SPELL made me realize that I want to keep going in my endeavor of opening up a non-profit one day. Because of working with Project SPELL, I’d like to add an ESL component to it. I just really love the work Project SPELL does.”
When asked about her learner, Nancy immediately beams with excitement. “First of all, I love my learner!” she says. “She’s great! She’s such a hardworking, strong, and independent woman. You can just see the power that she has and that she just really wants to learn. One of the reasons that I feel she joined Project SPELL was to have a better life. She came from El Salvador, and she just wanted something better not just for herself but for her family. Project SPELL just seemed like the next pathway for her. She has been jumped over for promotions most her life just because she didn’t know English, and it’s about time that she gets those promotions because she is a very hardworking woman. She has never told me that that is one of the reasons, but you can tell because of her motivation to learn. I’ve never seen someone so motivated to learn, so I love working with her.”
Nancy tailors her tutoring sessions so that they match her learner’s interests as well as improve the areas her learner would like to improve.
“Our main component of the session is using a picture of someone that is famous in both the Latino realm as well as the American realm in media,” she says. “Then I add vocabulary. My learner and I go over the vocabulary and have a conversation with the vocabulary. Then I sneak in some grammar. If we have time after that, we begin reading from this Life Stories book that she really likes because it has things like going to a coffee shop or someone’s early morning routine. We get through as much as we can, and I answer any of her questions that come up through the process.”
Nancy feels that the time she dedicates to tutoring her learner is time well spent and that Project SPELL helps her learner in many different ways.
“I really do feel like it is helping people,” she says. “With my learner, I can see it, especially each time we have a session. There’s something different that she starts to grasp, or she’ll begin using vocabulary from the last session. It warms my heart. I feel Project SPELL is one of the greatest things that can happen to the people that work on the hill or on campus because these people are pretty busy people. They work all day. After work, they have to drive back home or use the bus, like my learner. I love how Project SPELL helps UCLA employees learn while on the clock.”
Nancy especially enjoys interacting with her learner and seeing her progress. “The most rewarding part of being with Project SPELL is interacting with my learner,” she says. “Like I said before, she’s a great person, and I love her motivation in learning. Sometimes, when I’m down and think that school is the worst thing ever, and I have one of those down student days, I meet with her and she makes my day. No matter how hard the day gets, she puts a smile on my face. I love when my learner has an epiphany. You can just see it on her face, and she says, ‘Oh wait! You meant this all this time!’ Overall, I just love the whole experience. It’s something that is fulfilling and will help you grow in life.”