Sioux Falls Volunteers Assist English Language Learners

By Gunnar Dean

For non-native English speakers, maintaining a normal life in America is a constant struggle. Basic activities can be difficult, as they pursue success in a country that speaks in a different tongue. Local volunteer organization Reach Literacy hopes to make this transition easier for Sioux Falls English Language Learners (ELL).
Founded in 1986, Reach Literacy is an organization committed to teaching ELL students real-world applications of English, including reading, writing, and speaking. Reach Literacy recruits volunteer teachers to help students better participate in everyday life in the United States.

One such teacher is Audrey Emery, a USF senior and future English teacher. She began teaching at Reach Literacy in early February and appreciates the opportunity to assist the program with their goals.

USF Senior and Education major Audrey Emery
USF Senior & Education/English double major Audrey Emery volunteers at REACH Literacy in Sioux Falls, South Dakota

“I joined Reach Literacy because I wanted to help people adjust to the Sioux Falls community,” Emery commented, “I’m planning on being an English teacher and I thought it seemed fitting to help people to learn how to read and write and speak in English. Even people that are native English speakers struggle with that, so I thought it would be a good experience.”

Currently, Emery teaches adults from El Salvador and Guatemala. All of her students work in Sioux Falls, and attend Reach Literacy after their work day. Typically, students are paid by their workplace to go through ELL training. Students attend weekly classes that are oriented around specific functions that an adult may need.

“Every week there is a different lesson planned out with a different theme, such as scheduling, what you do to get ready in the morning, paying bills; basically everyday adult activities, but in English. We’ll fill out worksheets together and work on reading comprehension,” Emery said.

While Emery herself has a future in English education, this is not required for volunteer teachers at Reach Literacy. Teaching positions are open to anyone that knows the English language well enough to educate others. ELL students rely on their teachers for dedicated assistance, therefore volunteers should be prompt, reliable, and easy to work with. For Emery and the other teachers at Reach Literacy, English language learning is an essential part of a multicultural community, and should therefore be taken seriously.
“Programs such as RL establish inclusivity in a community. Giving people the chance to function in this country is really gratifying,” Emery added.

USF Media student Jade Roszak produced a video that offers a look inside the Reach-a-Reader bookstore at 2101 W 41st St #23, Sioux Falls, SD 57105. For more information, call the bookstore at (605) 332-2665.

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