Program helps Spanish-speaking youth get back to school

By Matias de Dovitiis

Teach 2 Learn is a fabulous program that was born in the classrooms of Downsview. It helps Spanish-speaking students find a better path to success.

The program started five years ago as an attempt to reduce the very high dropout rate of Spanish-speaking students. Parents got together to work on ways to help their own children, but the problem was very big and it required a great deal of work.

Since then, countless meetings, workshops, tutoring classes, field trips and forums have helped hundreds of students and parents find guidance and support to navigate the school system.

It has also helped students who have dropped out to get back to school.

To see the plays the students have put together, the classrooms full of students receiving math help or the parents in workshops learning the ropes of the educational system is to understand both the potential out there and the problems that need fixing.

“When we started we thought maybe we could just point students to other programs. Then we realized that the program was much bigger,” said Pilar Gonzalez, one of the program’s founders and coordinators. “Tutoring was not enough. The parents needed help. The students needed help. We started this voyage with an objective, but like a work of art, you never know what your final destination is.”

The name was coined by one of the program’s first volunteers, a retired teacher named Ana Schillac. She was training a new set of tutors when she told them, “In order to teach you must learn.”

The principle behind it is that anybody can learn and we can all be teachers. Students in the program not only receive help, but they also learn by teaching others.

Once children and youth learned to become engaged students the rest is much easier. Teach 2 Learn uses a number of different tools to engage students, from tutoring to artistic development. Most importantly, the programs are free to all participants.

Teach 2 Learn is by all means a success story and it has been my pleasure for the last five years to work along a great dedicated team of volunteers and parents.

The program currently helps 33 students with tutoring twice a week and 10 to 20 parents  participate in weekly workshops and the youth program has more than 20 participants each week.

Downsview is a community created by waves of immigrants that have arrived here over time and have often struggled to adapt to the system. This is just one of the many stories that have weaved our community together.

The pathway to success is always different for each and every one of us, but there is nothing like wasted opportunity. In Teach 2 Learn at least, dozens of students have a new pathway.

For more information go to www.teach2learn.ca