Magazine Feature / People

DU students tutor teen immigrants

When South High School teacher Dennis Smith needed tutors, he called the University of Denver.

Smith teaches at South’s Newcomer Center, a program that teaches English and other basic skills to immigrants from Africa and Mexico. He called DU’s Graduate School of International Studies in 2005 to see if students would be interested in volunteering to tutor his pupils.

This spring, Smith says he’s had more DU tutors than ever — about 40 from several disciplines helping his students.

Gabe Kadell (MA ’06) spent several weeks in 2005 and 2006 at the center. He says the experience helped him better understand the hurdles that immigrants face.

“I’ve always been interested in foreign cultures, so I went over to try it out and really enjoyed it,” Kadell says. “It was interesting to hear about their stories and how they’re trying to make it in this country now. I gained a lot of respect for them; they’ve come over here without families or knowing the language.”

Smith says it’s been particularly helpful for his students to meet DU students from other cultures.

“DU has such a diverse population and it’s great for my students to see students of color succeeding in society,” Smith says.

The program has blossomed into more opportunities for Smith’s students, too. Several of them have learned English so well that they hold jobs with Sodexho.

“There are four of my students working at DU right now,” Smith says. “Two will graduate from South High this year.”

Smith says DU students are helping the “lowest of the low and the highest of the high achievers.”

“My students love the DU students,” Smith says. “This exposes both groups of students to people they may not have met otherwise.”

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