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Meeting the Need

The first students in a new Dreamers Program, created to fund scholarships for people affected by changing U.S. immigration laws, graduated this summer from the University of Dayton with a certificate that allows them to teach English as a foreign language.

The program, which is based in Mexico, provides new opportunities to teach children and adults for Dreamers, refugees and other men and women who have returned to their native countries or been deported from the U.S.

“We are extremely proud of this first group of graduates,” said Brenna Seifried, University of Dayton English Language Institute program coordinator. “There is a real strength in their binational, bicultural experience, and we know it will be highly valuable to all those who study under them.”

The program was made possible through a partnership between the University; Grupo SM, a Marianist publishing company based in Spain; and its foundation, Fundación SM. It helps meet the demand for English teachers in Mexico, where the government now requires children to begin learning the language in preschool.

While some students in the program have previous experience in the classroom, most have been employed outside education or hold degrees in other areas.

Crisalde Ramirez Celis holds a bachelor’s degree in biomedical sciences. She was raised in California, but returned to Mexico to pursue her education. She had her first opportunity to teach English as an undergraduate.

“However, I soon noticed that although you may know English, you don’t remember all the conceptual terms, vocabulary or how to teach speaking,” she said.

With the certificate, she hopes to find a full-time teaching job to advance her career. She is also working toward her master’s degree in biomedical and molecular biology as she applies for jobs.

Samantha Hernandez said she did not hesitate to apply when she learned about the scholarship opportunity on Facebook through Otros Dreams en Acción, a group focused on reintegrating returnees to Mexico, which is collaborating on the program.

“I had my first encounter with teaching while volunteering in Colombia,” she said. “Although I did not have any previous experience, I loved it. I think it is such a rewarding profession as you are helping others, especially when it comes to teaching a second language. Most students want to learn English to better themselves, to find better jobs, to migrate — it even helps them boost their self esteem, and being part of all those positive changes is priceless.”

Hernandez was born in Los Mochis, Sinaloa, a coastal city in northwest Mexico, and moved to California with her parents at age 16. After graduating high school, she entered Mt. San Antonio College. She had hoped to transfer to a university, but realized that because she did not have authorization to work legally in the U.S., she would not be able to afford tuition.

“It was a super difficult decision, but I knew I wanted to continue studying and in the U.S., I simply did not have the opportunity, so I decided to go back,” she said. “It was hard as my family knew that once I crossed the border, it was uncertain when I would see them again.”

Hernandez enrolled at Universidad Autónoma de Baja California and earned a degree in international relations. After graduation, she volunteered teaching English to children and adults in Colombia. With her new certificate, she hopes to make teaching English her full-time job.

“English for me has opened so many doors and has allowed me to travel, to meet people, to learn, to gain so many things that helped also erase many borders mentally and physically,” she said. “I want as many people as possible to be impacted in that sense.”

The Dreamers Program will continue with its second cohort of students in September. Students will complete the six-month program in Mexico City and online. More information on the University’s Teaching English as a Foreign Language Certificate is available at go.udayton.edu/udel.


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