The Greater Good

A course about the Latino immigrant experience offered students the chance to give back—and a window into Drew’s deepening commitment to civic engagement.

By Christopher Hann
Photos by Peter Murphy

ESL students take advantage of a Drew-tutored class in Morristown, N.J.

Nine immigrants are gathered for an evening English lesson inside a classroom at Morristown (N.J.) Neighborhood House. Esther Matallana, a native of Colombia, is teaching the class with help from five Drew students, including senior Suzanne Sheptock, a Spanish and theatre arts major who’s working now with a ruddy-faced day laborer from Honduras named Wilmer. The word is lives.

“Levvus,” Wilmer says.
“Lives,” Sheptock repeats.
“Lives. Mira mis dientes,” Sheptock says. Watch my teeth. “Lives.”

It’s a tedious transaction. If Wilmer is like many Central American immigrants living in and around Morristown, a population whose ranks have swelled in the past decade, he might have little formal education and a wobbly grasp even of his native Spanish. So teaching someone like Wilmer an altogether new language is a process fraught with complications. Sheptock is unperturbed. “Lives,” she says again.

Sheptock and four other Drew students are here because last fall they enrolled in a community-based learning course taught by Elise DuBord, an assistant professor of Spanish. The course—“Service Learning and Translation: The Latino/ Latina Immigrant Experience”—required each student to commit 25 hours of service to Pathways to Work, a nonprofit based at the Neighborhood House. Pathways helps day laborers, most of them Central American immigrants like Wilmer, find work with local employers. Besides the English as a Second Language class, students taught computer skills and helped write and translate publicity materials for Pathways.

DuBord is familiar with immigrant populations, having conducted her own research as a doctoral student at the University of Arizona in Tucson, near the Mexican border, and spending two years as a Peace Corps volunteer in Guatemala, where, she says, she saw “the other end” of immigration. From the time she came to Drew in 2008, DuBord says, “I wanted to design a class where students could use their Spanish locally.”

Jeanna Occhiogrosso, a Drew Master of Arts in Teaching (M.A.T.) candidate, says students in DuBord’s class helped plan how to “attack” each of the three Path­ways projects. With a shifting enrollment of adult students, flexibility was key. “When you’re working with adults who are not on the same level, who come and go, there’s no lesson plan, there’s no curriculum,” Occhiogrosso says. “Because how could there be?”

Each student also conducted two wide-ranging interviews with day laborers, delving into their motivations for emigrating from their native countries, their English-language proficiency and their work history in the United States. The information will form the basis for an economic impact survey, being planned this year by Maliha Safri, an assistant professor of economics at Drew. Rosa Chilquillo, the Pathways project manager, says she hopes the organization will be able to use the study to show potential donors how the organization has benefitted day laborers.

Gustavo Gonzalez C’12 (center) works with Pathways to Work families.

Drew’s collaboration with Pathways is part of the university’s commitment to community-based service, a mission formalized in 2008 with the creation of the Center for Civic Engagement. Other projects have had Drew students conducting theater workshops in Newark and assisting the United Way of Morris County, a Pathways benefactor.

DuBord’s course was not Drew’s first involvement with Pathways. In spring 2010 students in Professor Otto Maduro’s “Sociology of Religion” course interviewed Morris­town-area clergy about their attitudes toward local immigrants. This spring the collaboration with Pathways continued with students in a course, taught by Elizabeth Kimball, a visiting assistant professor of English, titled “Immigration and the Crisis in Public Conversation.”

The mission of the Center for Civic Engagement “is simply to connect educational instruction to the common good,” says Amy Koritz, a professor of English and the center’s director. “Our central strategy for doing that is to connect academic classes with community-based work. But a parallel part of doing that kind of work is community-based research. We make it clear to students that what they are contributing goes beyond the purview of their particular class.”

That lesson was not lost on DuBord’s students. Alvinn Paulino C’12, for one, was so enthusiastic about his experience teaching the computer workshops that he continued to teach them in the spring semester. Fran Caputo C’10, an M.A.T. student, says she would have taken DuBord’s class even if it were not required for her graduate degree. “It’s such a cool concept,” she says. “How could you not want to do this? I like to help people, and in this class you’re definitely helping people.”

As for Suzanne Sheptock, she’s convinced she learned far more than what was promised in the course syllabus. “I had no idea that day laborers existed,” she says. “Even less of an idea that it was happening in Morristown. Now I feel educated on the topic. I don’t think I could think of a better way to learn.”

Finding Their Way

For three immigrants who worked with Drew students, the journey to a new life in America meant sacrifice and hardship.

Domingo Ruiz left his two young sons behind in Honduras when he journeyed to the United States six years ago, a 45-day passage known to countless Central American immigrants simply as el camino. The way.

His wife had been killed in an auto accident several years earlier, when she was just 26. So he left his sons—Herbert is now 16, Robinson is 14—in the care of his father. These days they speak by telephone two or three times a week. But for two teenage boys, the phone cannot replace the father they haven’t seen since he left for the United States. “Yeah,” Ruiz says, recalling the emotions that visited him when he embarked, solo, on the journey to the better life he’d hoped for so far from home. “It was terrible.”

Ruiz was working at a gas station in his home­town of Jesús de Otoro. But he had a friend who’d settled in Morristown years earlier and made a success of his life. Ruiz wanted that too. “I come here,” he says in his fractured English, “because I looking for a new horizon.”

And so he worked. As a landscaper. As a roofer. As anything, really, that would provide an income, much of which he sent home to his kids. Six years later, Ruiz sees signs of that better life. Today, he says, his sons live with his sister and her daughter in a house built from the wages he’s sent back home, to Honduras.

Regina Perez had been living in the United States for five years when she learned that, back home in Guatemala, her younger child, a son named Alexander, was walking to school when he was struck by a car. She was unable to return home for the funeral.

For Perez, now 46, the new life she sought when she left Guatemala 15 years ago has been fraught with hardship. She still struggles with the English language, so she recounts her tale with the help of a translator, Esther Matallana, a native Colombian and a volunteer at Pathways to Work.

Perez says she paid $2,500 to a pollero, or coyote, who smuggled her across the Mexican border into America. It wasn’t enough to pay for her children. Besides Alexander, she left behind a daughter, Herlinda, who was then 7 and is now 22. “I heard that the United States offered a different kind of life than my country,” Perez says.

Once across the border, Perez went first to Los Angeles. But she says a car accident left her unconscious for three months and in need of physical therapy. In L.A. she’d met Julian, a fellow Guatemalan, and together they moved to Union City, N.J., to be nearer to Perez’s brother. They stayed a year, then moved to Morristown, where Perez finds day jobs, mostly cleaning houses, through Pathways to Work.

Although she hasn’t seen her daughter since she left Guatemala, Perez says, they speak often by phone. “Mucho, mucho,” she says.

Edwin Paz never intended to leave his native Honduras. He had a home and lots of family in the town of Naranjo, where he played soccer in a professional league. But Hurricane Mitch changed everything.

The storm that swept across Honduras in October 1998 left more than 5,000 people dead and hundreds of thousands homeless—including Paz, who says he lost four family members. Before long, Paz set out for America, to reunite with a half brother who, years earlier, had resettled in Morristown. But with his country’s communications systems destroyed by Mitch, Paz had no way to alert his half brother of his plans.

The trip, Paz says, took four months. He says he traveled by bus at times but covered most of the more than 1,000 miles by foot. He slept outside and ate nopales, the fleshy oval leaves of the prickly pear cactus. “There’s no money in my country,” he says, by way of explanation. When he finally arrived in Houston, he contacted his half brother, who arranged for him to take a bus to Morristown.

Paz found work with an aviation company at Morristown Airport, and seven years ago he was married. He and his wife, Nancy, had a son, Gustavo, now five, and twin daughters, Nancy and Ashley, now two. He sent money home to help his sister pay for her university studies.

But last fall Paz found himself without a job when his employer went out of business. He’s found temporary jobs through Pathways to Work, where he also takes English language classes. And he’s taken on a familiar role, coaching the Neighborhood House men’s soccer team.

72 Responses to “The Greater Good”

  1. It’s an remarkable paragraph for all the internet viewers; they will take advantage from it
    I am sure.

  2. Very nice write-up. I certainly love this website. Keep writing!

  3. Age of Sparta Hack/Cheats Tool Version some. 5. 2

    Hello fellas. Welcome in order to Age group of Sparta Chop Instrument Version several.
    5. two. The other day we now have developed the following type of age of Sparta Hack Application. It’s unique crack software that has
    been manufactured for almost everyone. The age of Sparta Compromise
    afford them the ability to enable you to basically receive unrestricted quantity of cost-free Jewels as well
    as Gold in order to Grow older associated with Sparta in most minutes.
    This hack tool is totally free to work with and you will probably make as often Gems, Platinum as you are need.
    The Era Connected with Sparta Tips Application is perfect for almost all Android along with IOS products thus all people incorporate the use of this day-to-day.
    People DON’T Should jaibreak or maybe origin.

    The age of Sparta Hack into Device features anti-ban method therefore practically
    nothing to help worry about your current accounts. Just be sure you follow the particular
    guidance with all the Era Of Sparta Hack Software to be certain almost everything breaks down to
    fine and you may probably be given the free of charge Silver as well as Gems.

    In case you have just about any issues, really feel free contact us for the speak to site as well as i am pleased to solution people about
    virtually no time!

    You will discover much more information regarding age Sparta Device below.

    Get older Associated with Sparta Hack into Software Advantages

    Step one: Acquire along with Operate Age-Of-Sparta-Hack.

    exe Seeing that Administator.

    Get older regarding Sparta crack 1

    Step two: Select the system (Android/IOS/Window Phone) next enter in volume of Gems, Platinum you desire.

    Age connected with Sparta crack

    Era connected with Sparta Crack Tool

    Step 4: Reset to zero your own gadget right after totally hacking.

    Age group regarding Sparta hack 3


    Era Associated with Sparta star-512Cheats Tool Features:

    crack characteristics Unrestricted Age group associated with Sparta Jewels and Precious metal without cost
    hack attributes Regular current
    chop characteristics Helps almost all Android/iOS/WindowsPhone units

    Data Icon (1)Information:

    File Identify: Age group of Sparta. scoot
    Measurement: 615. 98 KB
    Type: 3. 0. 1
    Supported Os’s: Macintosh personal computer (any) / Or windows 7 and Vis and 7 or 8 /10/ iFile
    Trojan check: 0/57 – Scanned along with Virustotal
    Unknown: Yes
    Anti-Ban Safeguard: Indeed
    Obtain Age group Regarding Sparta Hack into Device.

  4. You know when the time comes and you have to babysit those Grandchildren you will have the perfect DVD to pop in and let them enjoy thhe art of learning.
    Make one particular with card board and give the seearch of an authentic tocket booth making use of
    colored graphics and photos. Famous owners include
    George Clooney and Brad Pitt.

  5. trannycam says:

    I don’t know K-Paz, but I definitely want to spend time around
    the Latin stage. Based on what exactly I’ve observed
    you will not remain canceling your specific workforce anytime soon following joining with.
    A CEH generally efforts to pass through this multilevel making use of methods in the coughing industry, nevertheless the goal seriously isn’t vicious.

  6. Once you order them around, you’ll come under a basic attack.
    There is a lot of close quarters combat in this level.
    The main attraction in Sword of Damocles is the addition of true kingdom
    management, including recruitment of lords and
    leading war parties to crush the still filthy

  7. online porn says:

    This website was… how do I say it? Relevant!! Finally I’ve found something that helped
    me. Many thanks!

  8. IOS 8.2 can download from OTA(Over The Air ) in your iOS system or additionally from the iTunes.

  9. Rodrick says:

    The purpose for the amendment specification produced a robust security network associayion (RSNA) design that woiuld improve authentication,
    key management, and confidentiality and integrity (Alann 98).
    Thick memory foam wrapped in fax leather lines the ear cups and
    the headband, which fits snugly to hlp eliminate external distractions.
    Some of the most important VIP lounges iin the airport are Cathay Pacific Airlines, Thai Airways and
    Singapore Airlines.

  10. Social networking web sites such as Facebook , Twitter ,
    and Myspace have made new ways to socialize and interact.

  11. In relation to this, a range of online websites that allow users to buy YouTube views is readily

  12. fansaddict says:

    The only issue with this is all the work that
    goes into interacting and learning concerning fans.

  13. finance says:

    Lets begin with stating among the information about this excellent revolutionary weight-reduction plan capsule and metabolism price booster.
    This means thay everybody who makes use of Adiphene should
    shed pounds. Glucomannan is among the most active hunger suppressants
    in Adiphene, and it works to suppress yearnings and help you handle your

  14. magnificent issues altogether, you simply won a brand
    new reader. What would you recommend in regards to your post that you just made some days in the past?
    Any positive?

  15. Excellent write-up. I certainly love this site.
    Keep writing!

  16. Thank you a lot for sharing this with all people you actually recognise what you’re speaking about!
    Bookmarked. Please additionally discuss with my website =).
    We can have a hyperlink change arrangement among us

  17. It’s remarkable to go to see this web site and
    reading the views of all friends about this post, while I am also eager of getting familiarity.

  18. absolutely appreciate your web-site but the truth is have to take consumers transliteration in a number of of your respective content. Many are generally filled using transliteration difficulties we find it incredibly problematic to inform the certainty on the other hand I’ll absolutely are available yet again once more youtube to mp3.

  19. Dans le meilleur des cas, on peut donc tester
    environ 30 codes par heure, ce qui est bien trop faible pour tester toutes les possibilités.

  20. Thanks in favor of sharing such a good thinking, paragraph is pleasant, thats why i have read it completely

  21. Thank you for any other informative site. The place else may just I am
    getting that kind of information written in such a perfect method?
    I’ve a project that I am just now running on, and I have been at the look out for such information.

  22. I’ve read a few good stuff here. Certainly value
    bookmarking for revisiting. I surprise how much effort you set to make
    any such great informative website.