Adult tutoring program is chance to be Good Neighbor
November 8, 2016
When the Park City School District began its Good Neighbor pilot program last school year, Lauren Beheshti was elated by the results.
The program, which pairs volunteer tutors from the community with adults who want to learn to speak English, was an instant success. Beheshti, the district's community education program coordinator, said there were 18 pairs of students and tutors meeting weekly.
But then the pilot program finished. Some of the tutors were second-home owners and left town. Others left for vacation and failed to reconnect with their students when they returned. Now, there are only five pairs actively meeting.
Beheshti is hoping to boost that number quickly and ensure the Good Neighbors program becomes a mainstay in Park City for years to come. She always has students interested in participating — the majority speak Spanish, but there have also been some who hail from places such as Thailand — so she's seeking as many volunteers as possible to serve as tutors.
"I just want it to grow and grow and grow," she said. "I want to find more volunteers and extend this opportunity to more students. … It has been truly impactful both for the students and the volunteers. People have been wanting to do this. It's surprising that there really wasn't this service for adults before in the community."
Students who have participated in the program have made impressive strides. It's been fun to watch, Beheshti said, because any improvement in their English skills makes huge differences in their lives. For instance, it allows them to do things many people take for granted, such as communicate more easily with their bosses or landlords, or even with the clerk at the grocery store.
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Additionally, the Good Neighbors program is helping the students integrate more fully into Park City. Beheshti said many of them have been in town for years, but can feel like they're living on the fringe of the community.
They often work jobs with Spanish-speaking coworkers, socialize with others who speak their language and don't often interact with English speakers. Learning English has given the students confidence, enabling them to interact with the rest of the town and begin to feel involved.
"It's an opportunity for them to get out of that bubble," she said. "It's kind of ironic because the best way to learn a language is immersing yourself in it."
More than teaching the language, though, the program has formed tight bonds between the adult students and their tutors. Beheshti said the program is building bridges that otherwise wouldn't exist between two segments of the community.
"Above all else, they've been able to establish friendships with people that they never would have been able to otherwise," she said. "That might not seem like the most important thing, but it really is a lot more important than people might imagine it to be."
As a town, she said, fostering those kinds of relationships should be one of Park City's top priorities.
"Everybody has something to bring to the table," she said. "There shouldn't be two sides of our community. It's one Park City. Everybody depends on everybody else. Everybody depends on the hard work of other people and the contributions that everybody makes."
For more information about the program, visit pcschools.us, navigate to the "Community" section and click on the "Good Neighbors" tab. People interested in volunteering can contact Beheshti at email@example.com.