Editor’s Note: Elizabeth Venegas is graduating from our school, Luther Burbank High School, this week. She is an amazing student and person. She volunteered as a peer tutor all last summer and in previous summers to help Newcomers, and did the same during the school year – including working as a peer tutor in our virtual daily live classroom. She wrote this guest post.
You might also be interested in past guest posts by previous peer tutors:
You can also see videos of Elizabeth and other students talking about their experiences as an English Language Learner:
My Year As An ELL Peer Tutor
by Elizabeth Venegas
My name is Elizabeth Venegas, i just graduated from high school, I was born here in California but at the age of 5 years old my parents decided to move back to Mexico. I lived in Mexico for 9 years and after that my uncles asked me if I wanted to come back and I told them yes. I came to the US without my parents like a lot of teens, I had to learn a new culture, a new system and a new language. Yes, I went to school in Mexico but none of what I had learned there will help me with all this. I was scared and frustrated. I knew I had the right to speak, to socialize but I didn’t do it because I didn’t know how. I knew I was able to do better but English was always my obstacle. I cried a lot of times. I was crying in my classrooms or with my counselor but it was just for some minutes because I didn’t give up I kept working for what I wanted.
In summer school for 10th grade I went to summer school to help the new coming ELD students to start learning English. Honestly, I did it because some friends were going to be there but I ended up liking it. I was able to understand them because I was in the same situation and they ended up trusting me not just my friends, all of them. After that I got interested in how we learn another language. When school starts I help students in the after school program. I help them with English and other classes because some of them didn’t go to school in their native country. In 12th grade me and other students were peer tutors in Mr. Ferlazzo class. We help students with they work, we translate words for them and in the beginning of class we spend around 15 minutes with them to read or teach them some new words. They were facing a lot of struggles and because of that I was a mentor and I talked to them and asked them if they were having problems with school.
My senior year was stressful, I got into regular English classes and I knew that my English was not good in and needed to work harder. English was not my only struggle, I’m the first one in my family going to college and is complicated because the education system of the United States is not the same as Mexico. Coronavirus, I didn’t expect this to happen. This made all more complicated not just for me but for all. The first thing I thought of was the ELD students. Why.? Why did I decide to help Mr. Ferlazzo? I knew I didn’t have to do it. I help because I like to help people, because I know how it feels to be there. My speaking, spelling and reading are not good. I know that but for fact I know I can get better and I have learned a lot with them. I’m teaching them but at the same time I’m practicing English. The way I had learned English was not because of my classes, it was because of them. I also help because I knew they were going to need help with translation. Mr. Ferlazzo is a good teacher but he is not good with Spanish.
The virtual class went well. We had some struggles because in the beginning some of the students didn’t have internet or a computer but the district was able to solve that problem. They were doing homework in google classroom. Mr Ferlazzo and I made sure that they could do their homework. I think it went pretty good. I really hope I have helped students as a peer tutor because they helped me a lot.