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English Tutoring Project celebrates
20 years of success

The School Sisters of Notre Dame work to identify and meet educational needs; the English Tutoring Project (ETP) in St. Louis is one outcome of that work by helping immigrant students in Catholic schools learn English. ETP was founded in August 1998, as a collaborative effort between the Office of the Mayor in the City of St. Louis, the Archdiocese of St. Louis and LCWR Region X. The initiative was led by Sister Carleen Reck, SSND, and three other religious sisters who studied the need and developed the project. Over the past 20 years ETP has worked in 12 schools and helped more than 1,800 students learn English.

S. Kathleen Koenen, SSND with English Tutoring Project students“When students have a better command of the English language, they have a greater chance of graduating from high school and attending a university or technical school,” said Sister Kathleen Koenen, SSND, administrator of ETP for the past four years. “Giving them English language skills opens doors and begins to break the circle of poverty among immigrant populations.”

Students in the ETP typically start their education at Nahed Chapman New American Academy, a St. Louis public school that focuses solely on teaching English to new immigrant students. The families are required to transition their children out of the school after two years. Many immigrant families settling in St. Louis look to neighborhood Catholic schools because they provide English language learning while also meeting them at their individual grade level. This makes the ETP’s role critical for kindergarten through eighth grade students served.

ETP helps students’ families as well. Sister Kathleen explained that it is critical to respect the children’s culture and tutors use dual language books that allow students to practice their English at home while allowing their parents to assist them. These books bridge the language gap between parents and children when children begin learning English.

The majority of ETP students are from Hispanic descent, but others come from Asia or Africa. In a survey conducted by the ETP for the 2017-18 school year, there are 116 students who speak 16 different languages and represent 17 different countries of origin in eight schools.

English Tutoring Project 20 years ago with their RV.ETP employs sisters who have retired from formal classroom teaching who tutor in Catholic elementary and middle schools in the St. Louis area. The tutors work in small groups or one-on-one with students in designated classrooms set aside by the schools. “Having a classroom is a huge improvement,” says Sister Jean Greenwald, SSND, an early tutor in ETP. In the early days of ETP, sisters drove from school to school in a donated RV and tutored students there. “We stored our books in the oven because we had nowhere else to put things,” reflected Sister Jean.

Student success is not judged solely on a student’s reading, writing and speaking abilities; socialization with peers, communication with teachers and a willingness to participate in extracurricular activities also contribute to a student’s success. One student, Lam, worked with ETP tutors for three years. After assessing that she was proficient in English, she graduated from the ETP program. She then entered a poetry contest and won first place in her school. The poetry contest organizers published her poem in their annual anthology. For Sister Kathleen, and sisters from the other congregations working in this program, successes like Lam’s make their job worth doing. Michel Wendell, Principal at St. Stephens Protomartyr Catholic School says, “ETP is such a gift! Not only are the students learning English, but also the sister who works in our school is the only religious representative, so she brings her faith. She also works to share the culture of our immigrant families with our school community.”

To see the many faces and lives ETP impacts go to: http://englishtutoringproject.com/

School Sisters of Notre Dame

320 East Ripa Avenue

St. Louis, MO 63125

Phone: 314-561-4100



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