Mar 212006
Authors: By Caroline Welch

This semester, El Centro Student Services implemented a new portion of their Triunfo (which means ‘triumph’ in Spanish) Tutoring Program in order to work with Spanish-speaking parents in the community.

The program, which normally works to tutor K-12 students in academics, has expanded to help the parents of students.

Vanessa Pasillas, El Centro volunteer and creator of the parents portion of the program, said her goal was to help parents of students in Poudre School District (PSD) learn English so they could talk to their children’s teachers.

The goal changed a little, however, when Pasillas learned that the parents already knew some English.

“I found that many parents had the ability to speak English, but not the confidence,” said Pasillas, senior liberal arts major. “(I knew) that if we could get these people to feel comfortable speaking English outside their home, then that would really help them.”

To help parents perfect their English, Pasillas takes tradition out of teaching and gives parents practical skills to take with them and use the very next day.

Each week, Pasillas spends one hour with parents while their students are in tutoring sessions. The first 20 minutes are spent learning and practicing phrases the parents may have needed throughout the previous week.

“Many say that English is spoken too fast, so we listen to songs to develop an ear for English,” Pasillas said. “It helps them understand a lot quicker.”

Other times, they watch TV shows. Some time is spent on grammar, but mostly, the sessions are about helping parents feel comfortable with their English-speaking skills.

“The most frustrating part is that most of them can speak English,” Pasillas said. “They’re just afraid to practice.”

For Pasillas, the program hits close to home. Growing up, her parents spoke only Spanish.

“Watching the miscommunications and misunderstandings (between my teachers and parents) was really hard,” she said.

Pasillas also worked with an immigration attorney and saw many of the same miscommunications and said she feels glad she can help other people through the tutoring program.

“It’s really exciting and kind of unbelievable. I didn’t think I would be coordinating a program like this,” Pasillas said. “El Centro is always encouraging us to get involved in the community, and they have provided me with the opportunity and support to develop the program.”

The Triunfo Tutoring Program pairs CSU students with K-12 students. It started with a few families in Fort Collins and now serves more than 45 students with one-on-one tutoring, said Rich Salas, assistant director for El Centro in an email interview.

Most students, Salas said, are from PSD, but some commute from Windsor, Loveland and other smaller areas surrounding Fort Collins.

This year, El Centro partners with the Center for Science, Math, Technology and Education (CSMATE) to bring “computers, materials, support, supervision and the opportunity to receive assistance in almost any academic area,” Salas said.

In the past, CSMATE partnered with El Centro for their Science, Math and Technology Day, but this year it is expanding its commitment, said Christine Jones, assistant director of CSMATE.

“There are a number of benefits to this program,” she said. “It is a way of increasing educational outreach for students who are thinking of attending CSU. It is a great free opportunity, and there aren’t too many free opportunities for students.”

One thing CSMATE offers for students is a state-of-the art facility, Jones said.

The facility includes two large learning studios with computers and Internet access for student use.

The learning studios in the CSMATE building are multi-purpose rooms that can handle experiments in biology, chemistry and physics. Each has movable lab stations, storage units and floor tiles, so the room can be made for any use. Computers are installed in each lab table, with lighting to reduce glare.

Getting hands-on teaching experience, opportunities to serve as a positive role model to young students and fulfilling service-learning requirements are just some of the benefits for CSU students who are part of the program, Salas said.

PSD students reap benefits of free tutoring, being exposed to campus life and positive role models, Salas said.

“One of my favorite things to observe is watching all CSU students working together to make a positive impact on our youth,” Salas said. “Not only are the CSU students assisting these local K-12 grade students with homework, they are also serving as positive role models as well as ambassadors for CSU.”

Caroline Welch can be reached at

Triunfo Tutoring is available for students from 4 to 7 p.m. and 5 to 6 p.m. for parents Thursdays in the CSMATE building.

 Posted by at 6:00 pm

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.