Partners in Print, a mentorship program based in the Leadership and Community Service Learning office at the University of Maryland, is responding to the needs of local communities by eliminating language barriers.
Students are granted federal work study for their mentoring services, which are twice a week for 45 minutes. Transportation is also provided by the University of Maryland.
When it was founded in 2003, Partners in Print was originally a bilingual literacy program that provided literacy workshops to 19 schools in Prince George’s County. However, this semester it evolved into a family development and advocacy program, aimed toward providing parents and their children tools to perform well in school.
One of the main issues with immigrant families are language barriers. Partners in Print provides student mentors who are bilingual. And while the majority are Spanish-speaking, others speak French and other languages. This gives a chance for parents to not feel embarrassed or discriminated against for a lack of English language skills.
“I realized that there’s a huge need next door to where I live on campus,” said Giuseppe Rebaudengo, a senior elementary education and Spanish linguistics major. “Realizing that there’s a lot of inequality in education, I think it also pushed me to have more of a passion of what I want to do eventually as a teacher, being in bilingual education.”
The program provides families and students a chance to talk directly to university students and hear about their journeys to a higher education. It has also provided an opportunity for parents to exchange information about tutoring programs and tips on how to navigate the school systems.
Workshops highlight the resources that parents can utilize, such as the right to have a translator during parent and teacher conferences. If a parent or student asks for a specific resource that the program does not have the answer to, mentors and team leaders search for it by contacting other services, providing that help and support.
Partners in Print, alongside other programs like America Reads and America Counts, has impacted more than 3,920 PGCPS students and parents, according to their webpage.
“A lot of immigrants… come to America to give their kids a better life, a better opportunity, it’s kind of like the American Dream that has become this like huge facade because it’s honestly become very difficult here,” said Sofia Marmolejos, a junior community health major minoring in United States Latino/a Studies. “I think Partners in Print kind of takes away that facade and brings back to reality the idea of education and how that’s the main stride or goal.”
After the election, a chance of reflection came up to see how the program would respond to the needs of the community, which has a predominantly Latino and immigrant populations.
“We talked about what is our place in Partners in Print, how are we feeling because we have mentors who parents are immigrants,” said Rebaudengo. “So, how does it affect us and how can we use those emotions to constructively work with the community to heal and protect each other.”
Applications to become a mentor for Spring 2017 are due by Jan. 30 at 5 p.m.