Tomas Quinonez-Riegos '15

iTEACH

iTeachCommunity is a club at Brown University that currently delivers industry-specific English lessons over Skype to students in Cambodia. Through weekly one-on-one lessons, iTeachCommunity develops the reading, oral, and listening skills of students in rural Cambodian communities, enabling them to succeed vocationally in an increasingly English-based tourist industry.

As iTeachCommunity seeks to expand to other countries and universities, this project aims to standardize the service iTeachCommunity offers through (1) creating master teaching curriculums tailored to two specific industry areas: tourism and education (2) finding expansion models to other campuses and partner-schools, and (3) organizing an online Google Drive database to standardize and centralize files and build institutional memory. The project's secondary aim is to establish connection for potential expansion between partner-schools in Panama and Thailand and the iTeachCommunity. 

Personal statement

When my grandfather and his brother arrived in the United States from Mexico in the late 1960s neither of them knew English. My grandfather immediately enrolled in adult night classes where he grew proficient in English in between working three jobs. He was able to use English to be a voice for worker's rights as well as to secure promotions at the factory where he spent over 30 years, comfortably retiring at 65. His brother, on the other hand, never learned English, never found steady employment, and is currently working at the age of 72 to support himself. I understand through their experiences the asset English has the potential to be.

At English for Action, a local adult ESOL program, I lead an adult beginner English class where all of my students are undocumented immigrants. Most have found jobs with employers who speak little or no Spanish, so my students often have a difficult time understanding many basic tasks and responsibilities assigned by their supervisors. They also have a difficult time asking for raises or vacations, making for an overall unfavorable working conditions.

These experiences, among others, have led me to understand the role English plays as the gateway to accessing not only certain jobs or careers, but a higher quality of life. However, given the state of education in rural communities of developing countries this gateway is an insurmountable obstacle that inhibits individuals from having a chance at pursuing higher education or to be considered for certain tiers of employment. For these opportunities to be opened up for rural communities, long-term projects must be implemented to challenge the systemic inequalities that residents face. In this way I believe ITeachCommunity provides a feasible first step by providing a steady group of support to augment the sporadic support of in-country volunteers. ITeachCommunity has the programmatic longevity and quantity of volunteers to provide personal tutoring to students who wish to better their lives by learning English.

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