The International Learning Center Appreciates Help from Service Learners

By Anna Concannon

The programs at many Service Learning sites are enhanced by the help from Marquette Service Learners who volunteer weekly to apply experientially what they learn in class.  One of those sites is the International Learning Center.

The International Learning Center (ILC), a program of the Neighborhood House of Milwaukee, serves immigrants and refugees and offers classes for them to learn to speak, read, and write English, obtain citizenship, and learn job skills to help them improve their futures in America.  Furthermore, daycare services are provided, which prepares children for preschool and Kindergarten because they know little English coming into the States.  The overall purpose for the ILC is to strengthen families and the community by providing opportunities to develop socially and intellectually.

Amazing things are happening at the International Learning Center and Marquette Service Learners play an important role as volunteers.  Volunteers are most needed to help the teachers in the entry-level classrooms.  They either work with students one-on-one, with small groups, or by assisting the teacher in a large group setting.  Before taking on this role, Service Learners observe several classes so they know what to expect when teaching or assisting in these classes.  Other ways in which volunteers can help at the ILC include carrying out administrative tasks, painting to improve the appearance of the center’s space, and advertising the ILC’s services.

The ILC benefits Service Learners greatly because the experience opens volunteers’ eyes to the struggles that refugees face.  Students put their life in perspective while they help ILC students learn English, gain necessary life and work skills, find jobs, and feel comfortable in a new country.  According to ILC’s Instructional Supervisor Cynthia Zarazua, the most integral benefit of volunteering here is that they connect and even develop friendships with students.  Even though students come from different backgrounds from tutors, “it is about finding similarities between each other, not highlighting the differences,” said Cynthia.  It is so important for people to feel welcomed when in a new setting, and volunteers can help make that happen and realize the agency’s mission of respecting and valuing each person.

In these aspects, Service learning certainly broadens volunteers’ experiences and education in a way that textbooks cannot.  In class, they may learn about working with people from diverse cultures, but until they experience that firsthand, they won’t fully understand what it is really like.

Most volunteers thoroughly enjoy their experiences at the International Learning Center and some return even when it is no longer required for Service Learning.  Ms. Zarazua encourages involvement because it truly is an excellent experience for volunteers to grow personally, learn from others and make a difference to others, and help an agency that touches the lives of many people in the community.  


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Marquette University Service Learning
P.O. Box 1881
1102 W. Wisconsin Ave. Room 303
Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53201-1881

Phone Number: (414) 288-0250
Fax Number: (414) 288-3259

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