Mar 012009
Authors: Stephen Lin

Sunday night, graduate students from the English Department’s Teaching English as a Foreign/Second Language recruited local bands to help raise money for the program’s Advocacy Week, which promotes awareness in the community for the needs of people who do not speak English as their first language.

Graduate students including Taryn U’Halie helped organize the fundraiser for TESL/TEFL and said she and others were committed to promoting literacy.

“We need to educate everyone in the community,” U’Halie said, explaining in the last couple years, demographics have shifted in Fort Collins.

She noted an increase in the Hispanic population, saying that these individuals often face the challenge of learning English in order to succeed in work and school.

There are about 30 graduate students enrolled in TESL/TEFL, an English Master’s concentration, which is designed to help future teachers gain the necessary skills to teach English.

Fabiola Ehlers-Zavala, a TESL/TEFL professor said that many of their students come from other countries outside the U.S. ranging from Saudi Arabia and Paraguay, to Japan and Nicaragua.

After completing the program, a number of TESL/TEFL’s graduates go on to teach English overseas and then either remain abroad or return to teach K-12 in the U.S. education system.

Whitecatpink, a singer in a white cat suit who sang in French, was among several local artists who performed, complimenting the event’s multi-lingual focus, which drew the support of several dozen CSU graduate students, professors and community members throughout the night.

Graduate student Amanda Pawelksi works in the Intensive English Program at CSU and plans to continue teaching English after she graduates. Pawelski entered the program because she had an interest in travel and learning foreign languages.

Pawelski said that the graduate students are advocating “on behalf of people for whom English is not their first language.”

Pawelski echoed U’Halie’s observation of the changing ethnic demographics in Fort Collins.

“There is an increasing number of students who need to learn English,” Pawelski said of elementary, junior high and high school students in the Poudre School District.

Sunday’s event served to raise money for the approaching Advocacy Week, which students and professors said raises awareness about the issue of illiteracy in the community.

Ehlers-Zavala said that the purpose of the Advocacy week is to “advocate for English language learners and their families and to welcome them to the CSU and Fort Collins community,” further adding it helps to “promote linguistic diversity on campus.”

This year’s advocacy week will take place in the third week of April. Eli Hinkel, a professor from the University of Washington and authority in the field of teaching English as a second language, is scheduled to speak.

The weeklong event begins with a kick-off on the Lory Student Center Plaza, followed by a literacy night when volunteers will read and give books away to the CSU and Fort Collins Community.

Staff writer Stephen Lin can be reached at

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