Education Without Boundaries
Maria Barrera is really far from home and hasn’t been able to return for a visit in more than a year. She is very close to her family — she is the oldest of three children being raised by her single mother — and feels badly that she can’t be home more to help her mom. “To go without seeing them for so long has been really hard,” she admits.
She definitely doesn’t take for granted the efforts she and her family are making for her to attend Goucher. “I’m really lucky to be here, and I know it,” Barrera says.
Her sense of gratitude is amply apparent in the incredible amount of time she spends helping others on and off Goucher’s campus.
Barrera started off her freshman year volunteering with Five-Star Tutoring Service, a program with which Goucher has partnered to provide after-school enrichment activities for elementary students. This year she worked at Barclay Elementary School in Baltimore City mentoring and providing enrichment programs for students. “The kids were amazing. They’re very funny and energetic, and I love spending my days with them,” she says. “They’re so affectionate and very curious, and they definitely speak their minds.”
Ever since she arrived on campus she also has been volunteering with the Futuro Latino Learning Center at Goucher College, which provides ESL classes, computer literacy training, Spanish-English conversation courses for adults, and a cultural enrichment program for children. She started out being an instructor in the basic computer class because she is a native speaker and could convey more specialized information to program participants.
But her passion has always been working with children, and she later asked the program director to work in the Hispanic cultural program for kids. She and the other volunteers only speak to the children in Spanish. “Even though they are Hispanic kids, their Spanish is horrible. Spanglish is a huge issue in our culture,” Barrera admits. “We encourage them to acknowledge where they come from and soak in their language and culture. I really like that.”
Her work at the Futuro Latino Learning Center has also evolved into another great opportunity for Barrera and an additional way for her to give back to others. She will help two members of the Department of Hispanic Languages, Literatures, and Cultures with “Una Mejor Vida: Latino Voices on Survival and Transformation,” a program funded by a Goucher Innovation Grant to conduct interviews with participants from the Futuro Latino Learning Center about their immigration experiences.
“The program’s participants are so excited and appreciative for what we do for them at the center. They want to give back,” Barrera says. “They are very excited because they want the Hispanic immigrant community’s voice to be heard, and they want to straighten out stereotypes about them.”
So while Barrera is long way from home to attend Goucher, she spends a lot of time with others who are also diligently striving for better prospects. This helps her keep things in perspective. “I’m really seeing all the opportunities I have and things I can do,” she says. “I’m so glad to be here, and I really appreciate the education that I am getting.”