The D.C. Schools Project celebrated its 30th anniversary with a panel discussion in the ICC Auditorium on Thursday about the impact of the project on the Washington, D.C. immigrant community and the current condition of education in D.C.
D.C. Schools Project, under the umbrella of the Center for Social Justice, recruits Georgetown students to teach English as a second language to the District’s underprivileged youth and adults with immigrant backgrounds, aiming to improve literacy and give tutors a better understanding of their surrounding communities.
The event began with a welcome message from Olivia Ball (COL ’15), the Latin American Youth Center Program Coordinator of the D.C. Schools Project, who has worked with the organization since the first semester of her freshman year.
“If I could spend every day at the Latin American Youth Center, I would,” Ball said. “I can’t imagine what my Georgetown experience would’ve been like without working for D.C. Schools. It’s also inspired me to continue pursuing a career in education post-graduation.”
Douglas Reed, an associate professor of government, moderated the panel, which included an official introduction and report about the current state of the organization from D.C. Schools Program Director Jessica Lee.
The three “narratives from the field,” given by Language Access and Advocacy Coordinator in the Office of Latino Affairs Cecilia Castillo Ayometzi (GRD ’97), Director of Language Acquisition Division of D.C. Public Schools Elba Garcia, and Staff Attorney of the Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Coalition Ursela Groat (SFS ’11), explored the impact D.C. Schools and similar programs can have and the relationship of their current work to D.C. Schools and Georgetown.
“I always wanted to understand my migration experience; what it meant to be a migrant in my society,” Ayometzi said. “Success is that they pay you to do what you love to do, and I think that I have managed to accomplish that.”
The panelists discussed how the environment in which the project is active has both changed and stayed constant, pointing to the surge of unaccompanied youth into the area
“The population continues to be predominantly Hispanic,” Garcia said.
“Now we have more diversity,” Ayometzi added. “The new population is very young.”
Groat said that she was heavily influenced by her own experience working as a tutor in the parent program of D.C. Schools as a student at Georgetown.
“I loved being there every Saturday, I loved seeing the students and I loved the work that we were doing,” Groat said. “It gave me the opportunity to understand what it meant to be an undocumented immigrant in this country.”
Before an informal celebration at Epicurean and Company, the panel concluded with comments by CSJ Associate Director Ray Shiu.
“I know firsthand how projects like D.C. Schools Project can mean so much in advancing educational opportunities for English language learners,” he said.
Tutor Chris Yang (SFS ’18) attended the panel and, as a first -generation immigrant, connected with the idea of giving back expressed in the panel.
“I wanted to give back, in a sense, and help other people,” Yang said.
Jenny Liang (COL ’18), who also tutors, noted the emphasis of the programs such as D.C. Schools at the university.
“Community service is a central part of the curriculum here at Georgetown,” Liang said. “Georgetown puts a very strong focus on reaching out to local communities.”