Thursday, December 18, 2008

Environment at our Community Partners' Organizations Cannot Be Duplicated in the Language Classroom

The Refugee Center was our very first community partner for very good reasons. It's located just about ten blocks away from the Foreign Languages Building, but it opens up an entirely new world to our students.

I just received the holiday letter from the Refugee Center. Here are a few quotes that show that our students are exposed to languages, cultures and social issues there that they could never directly encounter in our classes.

"Since last year we have had refugees/asylees arrive from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Cuba, Iraq and China. We have also had families from Liberia, Vietnam, Colombia, Mexico, Somalia and India (and I am sure I have overlooked someone) reunite with their families.

"For first quarter of FY09 we have had contact with over 770 unduplicated individuals and 77 of them (a 16% increase from last year) lived in Rantoul.

"Volunteers from the U of I Spanish 232 class have been helping some of our elder clients improve their English. It is rewarding for all involved when a senior gains enough confidence to try using the English they are slowly learning."

The letter also gives some financial information. Like all social service agencies, they are doing more work with fewer resources. If you'd like to contribute to their mission, you can send your tax-deductible donation to:
302 S. Birch
Urbana, IL 61801
For questions, call 217-344-8455


  1. It's nice to read this perspective from a professor who is connected to the community and receives holiday letters and other information from the community partner organizations. It's so important that as we prepare our students for the world beyond the university that we stay connected outside of our campus comfort zones!

  2. It's true; it's very easy to get caught up in the same "campus bubble" that we want our students to break free from. I find that my participation on the Refugee Center's Board informs my teaching and makes me much more aware of community issues than I could possibly be just be reading about things.