CILCE Corner: Reflections on Literacy Connections Program

While talking with my fellow CILCE grad assistant, Sarah Farnes, this week, I got the chance to have a behind-the-scenes view of Literacy Connections (LC). Sarah was fresh off a site visit and was ecstatic about working with the “buddies” –  the elementary school students who Tommies involved in the program work with.

This semester, LC mentors have been visiting College Prep Elementary (CPE) twice a week working on literacy-related activities such as reading, drawing and playing games. CPE is a K-6 public charter school with a large Hmong and Burmese population, so working with buddies there gives UST students a chance to learn more about different cultures.

Sarah talked to me about how much fun the visits have been this year. Because of the amount of one-on-one time the LC mentors have with their buddies, she said, many of the pairs have formed lasting friendships. In order to provide me with a better idea of what the program entails, she gave me a privileged sneak-peek of some of the weekly reflections the mentors write as part of their job. Here are some of my favorites:

After a November visit with her buddy, mentor Carly LeClaire writes, “[She] was in a particularly chatty mood today, I LOVED IT!  … We chatted about her grandparents, and her hair accessories, and [the] night before – feeding her brother at 3 in the morning with her older sister … .” To help her buddy learn how to write letters, Carly gave the third-grader stamps and stationery. The two have been sending cards back and forth in the mail ever since. In her reflection she notes that her buddy brought her a gift that the girl and her sister had made: “a small envelope covered with flowers and butterflies … . Inside was a folded picture of a huge, beautiful flower.”

Carly has been so moved by her relationship with her buddy that she wrote about the experience for her VISION scholarship essay. She notes, “I ended up receiving the scholarship (SOOO excited) for … Costa Rica trip and I give full credit to [her]!”

UST student Callan Brown has bonded with her buddy through arts and crafts. In her reflection from mid-November she wrote: “Today went really well, [my buddy] was very talkative and we just got to know each other while coloring some fish. He was very particular about making the fish realistic and liked explaining about what he knew about different types … and telling me about [the ones] he had caught. He had a lot of fun with the group game and is looking forward to more in the future.”

Mentor Unis Doeway also loves being a part of Literacy Connections. She wrote, “This week my buddy and I had a lot of fun. It’s been a while now and I feel like we are really developing a great friendship! I can see that when he enters the room he looks forward to seeing me. … It feels great … .”

Tommies don’t just teach the students – they become students themselves. Vontez Donaby wrote, “This week was an interesting week because I had the chance to learn a little bit from my buddy. He taught me how to say ‘hello my name is’ in Hmong. He was excited to teach me the language and I was very interested to learn.” The program works hard to promote a reciprocal relationship between the UST students and their buddies.

Literacy Connections mentors will have their last visits of the semester next week. Almost all of the Tommies who work for LC will be returning to work with the same buddies in the spring. I feel lucky that I was able to read their reflections and see their relationships grow. The work they do is amazing, and their words get to the heart of the program.

For more information about the Literacy Connections Program, please email Kate Caffrey, program director, or call (651) 962-6466.