ESCONDIDO — Before heading off to college, two recent San Pasqual High School graduates gave back to their community by hosting free workshops helping children read English.
Growing up in Spanish-speaking households, best friends Araceli Ramirez Alonso and Fernanda Sebastian knew the difficulties of a language barrier. Sebastian immigrated here as a child and Alonso’s parents were immigrants – and both had to learn at young ages how to speak English and translate for their parents.
Although they had help learning English through dual immersion classes in school, reading outside of the classroom without additional help was sometimes tricky. They also noticed how difficult the language barrier could be for their peers in similar situations.
Inspired by their own experiences, the young women decided to host a children’s workshop where they provided free assistance reading books in both Spanish and English.
“Parents could come and meet with us to see who was working with their children,” Alonso said.
Last fall, then-seniors at San Pasqual, Alonso and Sebastian applied for the Dragon Kim Foundation Fellowship Program, an Orange County-based nonprofit that awards community service grants to support high schoolers seeking to launch service programs to impact their communities. The two received $5,000 to host their two free “Give A Book” workshops in late July.
Along with funding, the fellowship taught them how to budget, plan and manage their project. They also learned how to work with city staff and elected officials, such as Councilmember Consuelo Martinez, to reserve space for their event and coordinated book donations with organizations like community bookstores and local libraries.
“Reading has made such an impact on us,” Alonso said. “It gives us the ability to travel by letting our imaginations take us there.”
Following the two reading workshops, the two students are now preparing to embark on their respective college journeys. Sebastian is heading to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo to study animal science and Alonso will attend Stoney Brook University in New York to study psychology with criminology.
While in college, the two hope to continue what they started by helping other English learners learn how to read.