Students Staff Refugee School

PBH Volunteers to Teach English in Boston

Next week, about 15 Harvard students will start school again. This time, however, they will be the teachers.

Harvard student volunteers will instruct approximately one hundred Hispanic and Indo-Chinese refugees who live in East Boston as part of the English as a Second Language program.

The school, which operates out of the Holy Redeemer Rectory in East Boston, was founded a year ago with the help of Chris Turvey '83. The language program is designed to teach refugee students, approximately 70 percent of whom are Hispanic and 30 percent of whom are Indo-Chinese.

Although most of the teachers are Harvard students, the program has no formal ties to the University. But since last February, Phillips Brooks House--a campus social service organization--has been referring Harvard students to the school through its Refugee Committee.

Phillips Brooks House supports the program because "the chance of really accomplishing something [in the English as a Second Language program] is far greater than in many refugee programs," said Michael Melcher '86, co-chairman of the Refugee Committee. He added that classroom attendance has been "very good" and that 80 per cent of students who start the program finish.


Before entering the classroom, teachers undergo a two week training session which is run by former instructors. Knowledge of a foreign language is not required of teachers, as all teaching is done in English.

Although teachers are provided with handbooks, they must plan their own lessons. "The benefit of the program is being able to express creativity," Anne Beal '87 said.

Cultural Mix

Beal, who will teach again this year, cited the unique cultural mix of the students as a rare opportunity to learn about other countries. In one class last year, she recalled, she asked her students to act out the word "helicopter," and they responded by ducking.

While many teachers said they have noticed racial tension between students in the classroom, they added that generally this has not been a problem.