Literature and Creative Writing
Khmer-American Refugee Poet Describes Her Journey
Since the day she arrived on campus, Anyi Rescalvo ’22 knew she wanted to give back to marginalized communities during her time at Hamilton. A daughter of immigrant parents, Rescalvo says she found the perfect way to do this — by teaching English to immigrants and refugees.
“Education is something I care deeply about,” Rescalvo said. “I know how hard it can be for non-native speakers to learn English. I’ve seen my own parents struggle because of language barriers, so I decided to join Project SHINE to help others overcome those kinds of obstacles.”
At the Levitt Center students develop the academic knowledge and practical skills necessary to understand and address persistent social problems in innovative, effective and ethical ways.
Through Hamilton’s Levitt Center, Project SHINE connects the College community and local neighborhoods through a service-learning program where students tutor refugees and immigrants in nearby Utica. For Rescalvo, the volunteer work has been much more than just a way to supplement her Hispanic studies major and education studies minor.
“Being able to share aspects of my own culture while also learning about the customs of others has made it easy to connect and bond with the students I tutor,” Rescalvo said. “Building these relationships has helped me put my own life into perspective and better understand how important communication is in every aspect of everyday life.”
Started in 2004, Project SHINE grew from a volunteer opportunity to a quarter-credit course where students are instructed by ESOL Program Director Barbara Britt-Hysell. Upon completion of the program, which requires students to commit to tutoring in Utica for a total of 20 hours at the adult education school of BOCES (Board of Cooperative Educational Services), participants receive an ESOL Tutor Certificate of Completion from the College. A continuation of the course, taught by Associate Professor of Russian Languages and Literatures John Bartle, is offered in the spring, which Rescalvo plans to take to continue her work as a tutor.
Through SHINE, Rescalvo has helped teach ESOL and adult GED classes to immigrants and refugees from all over the world ranging in age from 18 to 75. She’s worked with students at different stages in the English learning process, from those just starting to learn the alphabet, to more experienced speakers working on full conversations.
“I’ve learned so much about myself throughout the course of this program because I’ve had the opportunity to develop my own style of teaching,” Rescalvo said. “It’s so rewarding to see students learn, and it’s always so heartwarming whenever they thank me for the help. It makes me so proud to see the impact I can have on others.”