The Corps: The missing letter

United Way is running point on a unique project, designed to bring together partners to tackle a specific issue in Lynn: the challenge that immigrant children and their families face while trying to achieve academic success. A team of 12 AmeriCorps members have been deployed in Lynn Public Schools and partner agencies, their work spanning the next three years. These are their stories.

“What is the missing letter in these words?” asks Claudia.

As I glance at the elementary worksheet, it is apparent that the activity is an assignment for her first grade daughter.

“Well,” I reply, “the first picture is a lock… it’s missing an O. The second is a picture of a deer and it’s missing a D.”  I continue down the page until there were no more pictures and no more missing letters.

The words were simple and the pictures were clear.  For an English speaking parent the assignment could be completed with ease.

Adult ESOL night class for parents at Catholic Charities in Lynn.

Adult ESOL night class for parents at Catholic Charities in Lynn.

But Claudia’s native country is Guatemala, and her primary language is Spanish.  This simple activity was a challenge and she was unable to help her daughter with it.

Even so, Claudia would not allow a language barrier affect her capability to assist her child.  Perhaps it was parental pride, maybe a mother’s instinct, or resourcefulness that comes with immigration, but whatever it was Claudia was determined to help her child complete the homework assignment. So after our Tuesday morning ESL conversation class, together, we did.

I left class that bitter morning with gloves, a scarf, three layers of jackets, and a warm heart, realizing that a mother’s love knows no barriers, even if they are as stringent as language.

Erica McCarthy is an AmeriCorps Member working out of Catholic Charities North in the English as a Second Language program.