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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

ELL and BLC plan lunch to honor university staff

Published: December 2, 2011
Section: Features

The English Language Learners Initiative (ELL) and the Brandeis Labor Coalition (BLC) are hosting an appreciation cafe for its workers and tutors on Dec. 2 in the Shapiro Campus Center atrium from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. The cafe is an effort to raise awareness about the importance of workers in our dining halls and workers from facilities services and to create interactions and long-lasting friendships among students and staff members.

Over the past few years, the appreciation cafe has been held on campus. Because this is the ELL’s 10-year anniversary, the ELL coordinators invited all of the tutors and tutees (or “learners” as the ELL calls them) to the cafe so that each person involved with the club can learn more about each other outside of a teaching environment. WBRS will DJ the event and Spellbound, an on-campus band known for jazz music, will perform live at the event.

“Holding this type of event that encourages dialogue between the students and workers allows for students to create new bonds with the workers. I’ve always hoped that forming those types of bonds will encourage everyone on campus to always be respectful and understanding of the workers, as well as appreciative all the time—not just once a semester,” says Alana Pellerito ’13, an administrator for both the ELL and the BLC.

Tutors for the ELL teach workers from dining services or from facilities English every week for 30 minutes during their lunch breaks. There is no set curriculum for each student, as each person has varying levels of speaking, reading and understanding English.

Typically, each learner works with multiple tutors each week, and all the tutors meet to develop lesson plans catered to each learner’s language level.

“I wanted to give back to the community and witness my impact. I’ve been tutoring Maritza of Facilities for at least three years now and have truly seen her grow. It’s amazing how much of a difference you can make by giving 30 minutes of your time each week to tutoring,” says Josh Kahane ’12, another administrator for the ELL.

The BLC works to ensure and gain fair labor policies on campus and internationally. The coalition tries to raise public and on-campus awareness about labor issues by organizing events, such as the appreciation cafe. In addition, the facilities worker biographies that are found in North and Massell are interviews conducted by the BLC. Many of the tutors and learners involved with the ELL are also part of the BLC.

Students who are interested in joining the ELL submit an application at the beginning of the semester to get matched with a learner based on their schedule. The BLC meets weekly to discuss labor issues, organized by one member in the coalition.

“Students are welcome to bring campaigns, ideas, passions and speakers to BLC; we are always welcome to expanding and trying new things,” says Pellerito. She adds that, “I love doing community service, and though there were a lot of options when I arrived at Brandeis, ELL was the most perfect for me.”