As part of the Center for Civic Innovation at Notre Dame’s (CCI) winter internship program, 4 Notre Dame students (Pamela Alvarado-Alfaro, Kerry Conneely, Eduardo Yepiz, and Danielle Tirado) worked on the Elkhart Community Schools Bilingual Services Project.
This project examined the gaps in communication between non-English speaking families and teachers/staff within Elkhart Community Schools. This entailed interviewing non-English speaking parents, evaluating the data collected, and creating a survey tool for teachers and the general Elkhart community to gather feedback.
Alvarado-Alfaro and Eduardo Yepiz took on the majority of the bilingual communication with the parents, which was a large portion of this project. They were passionate about this project because of strong values of community engagement and education.
“Equal education and equal access to education [is very important] for all—especially for first generation students like myself. I know it is really difficult to have to navigate through the education system on your own,” said Alvarado-Alfaro.
The interns discovered two main gaps of communication within their research; 1) a “gap in knowledge regarding digital literacy and the U.S. public education system, and 2) a lack of confidence regarding parent-teacher communication.”
Since the winter internship ended, Alvarado-Alfaro has continued to do research on this topic and has been working on interviewing teachers to get their feedback on how to fill these gaps. She explained, “They [teachers] do feel like more could be done, they just don’t know what could be done or what they can do better. I think that for them it must be very difficult—because as educators, I am sure, they want all of their students to do well, and so it's hard when they feel like they can’t help.”
CCI is intending to do another project this summer that focuses on implementing solutions within Elkhart Community Schools based on the data collected to date.