HERC Newsletter : September 2008

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September 2008 The Boston HERC News
They Go (To College) Because You Give


"I love working at HERC," writes Patricia Lee, one of the two volunteers interviewed in this, the Boston HERC's first electronic Newsletter. "I'm so inspired by the students. I've also brushed up on my Spanish. I've learned how to teach and how to relate to people. I've grown in patience and faith . . . it's an awesome place to be." The Boston HERC would not exist - kids would not be going to college; recent immigrants would not be learning English, or learning computer skills, or escaping poverty - were it not for people like Patricia and Sam Edminston. And you. Over 100 souls lent a hand this fiscal year, serving as Mentors to at-risk high school students, or as coaches in the LetsGetReady! SAT prep classes, or as ESOL or basic computer literacy instructors. When you give generously of your time, your energy, and your treasure, lives are transformed. This June, the Passport Program sent 15 high school graduates to college - our largest class ever. Another 30 students visited college campuses in Providence, RI, most for the first time. And our summer SAT program finished with a near perfect student completion rate - 99%! Over 90% of Boston HERC's students will be the first in their families to go to college. There are good things ahead this year. Twenty-three (23) Passport Program Seniors are preparing to go to college. And mark your calendars! The Fifth Annual Community Gems fund-raiser is scheduled for December 6th, and we would welcome your support. To all of you who invested your prayers, your time, and your support to make these miracles possible, thank you. This Newsletter is dedicated to you.


Samuel Acevedo
Executive Director

Over 30 students attend Providence college tour
by Sonia Miranda-Lopez

HERC hosts visit to Brown University and Providence College

Providence College Tour Group Photo This past April vacation, we hosted a college visit to Brown University and Providence College for 31 students from our Passport, Mentoring, and SAT-Prep programs. At Providence College, the students attended a special info session with admissions officers and college students that educated them about the college application and financial aid process and the factors that should be considered when choosing a school. Students also participated in a campus tour. At Brown, our students met with 5 current Brown students, who shared their real-life college and graduate school experiences and answered the students' questions about campus life, career plans, and other important matters connected to the college decision-making process. They also attended a Brown campus tour. The trip was a great opportunity for students to experience college life first-hand and to get more information about the college application process.

George's Island Trip
by Erin McNally
ESOL Students, Friends, and Family Spend a Day at the Beach!

George's Island '08This past June, over 70 students, volunteers, and their families from our adult education programs enjoyed a day of relaxing and socializing with each other, barbecuing, and sports. Students also practiced their English and learned more about Boston's history, as a park ranger gave us a tour of the island's fort and explained its story. The ferry trip and the beautiful views it provided of Boston's harbor and skyline were highlight for many, as well. As one child exclaimed, "I'm so excited for my first boat ride!" For many, it was a welcome break from intense work and class schedules and a great time of fellowship. In the words of one student, "I'm so glad we went on this trip. I don't know what I can do around here with my kids. But this gives me a good idea. It's not expensive, and we can come again as a family."

Passport to College '08 Graduation Celebration
by Sonia Miranda-Lopez

HERC sends 15 Passport Graduates Off to College!

Passport '08 Graduates

On June 20, HERC celebrated the accomplishments of 15 Boston-area high school students, who completed our 2-year Passport to College program. Through weekly workshops focusing on the college application process, character and leadership development, and life skills, these students learned about time management strategies, conflict resolution, and goal setting, among many other related topics. They also attended our annual Career Forum, which, this past year, brought 16 minority young professionals to our site to share their experience and facilitate workshops around the topic of transferable skills and success in the workplace. This fall, our 2008 graduates will be enrolling in 4-year schools, such as Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Boston College, Gordon College, and Trinity College, among others. Two of our graduating seniors received full tuition scholarships to Northeastern and Gordon, respectively, and all received generous financial aid packages. We are now recruiting rising juniors for the Class of 2010. To find out more, please contact Sonia Miranda-Lopez at smiranda@bostonherc.org or (617) 606-4271.

HERC Hosts Computer Literacy Classes
by Erin McNally

Students Gain Skills Needed for 'The Age of Technology'

Computer ClassThis year, HERC offered three basic Spanish-language computer literacy classes. Students learned the basics of Microsoft Office, Windows, and the Internet. Students all set up email accounts, and many have used these to communicate with family and others in their home countries. Some who are studying in college and training programs have acquired the computer skills necessary to complete their academic work. Another student, Tulio Ballesteros, was awarded a free computer for his dedication and perfect attendance in our program. Like many students in our computer classes, he is cross-enrolled in the ESOL program, and is working on practicing English through free websites at his new home computer. Over time, we hope to offer more comprehensive Spanish-language computer training. Currently, HERC is compiling and creating more advanced Spanish-language materials in order to launch several new offerings in the fall class session.

Summer SAT-Prep Program
by Sonia Miranda-Lopez
99% of students finish program successfully!

We kicked off our summer session of SAT-prep classes on June 25 with 46 high school students and 15 college student volunteers. For 8 weeks, the students in the program attended Math, Critical Reading, and Writing classes, went on college visits, and worked on their college applications together. Our SAT-prep program provides free classes for local high school juniors and seniors and prepares them to apply to college and receive financial aid. Classes are offered three times a year, in the spring, summer, and fall. On average, our students raise their scores by 150 points. Our fall session will start in October of 2008. For more information about the program, please contact Sonia Miranda-Lopez @ (617) 606-4271. We hope to hear from you!

Spring and Summer ESOL Sessions
by Erin McNally

Over 100 students participate in ESOL classes this year!

Spring ESOL Graduation Sixty-three students enrolled in the Spring '08 session of the English-for-Speakers-of-Other-Languages (ESOL) program!

HERC congratulates all who participated in the ESOL program this year. We celebrate with the students who entered college, students who are going places without interpreters for the first time, students who found jobs or received promotions at their work, students who became U.S. citizens, and students who are getting closer and closer to their visions for their life in this country. In addition to offering our regular adult classes, we also had 15 children of adult participants enrolled in our children's program. With a record number of 20 members on our volunteer teaching team, we were also able to offer individual tutoring to twelve of the students enrolled in our program. These students were able to gain more confidence and be especially encouraged in their English speaking skills. One student, who made the transition this session from speaking to everyone at HERC in Spanish to only speaking English, says, "My tutor helps me so much. Now, I'm not afraid to speak with anyone in English. I had to miss some classes because of some family problems, but I still meet with my tutor every week. She's a good friend."

Thanks to Our Donors!

Samuel Acevedo
Mynor Acevedo
Ana Andujar
Garitza Antonietti
Tulio Ballesteros
Christopher Barker
Ramy Barrett
Gregory and Kennis Bishop
Iris Bonilla-Yoon
Lawrence Brown
Elizabeth Canali
Shirley Cardona
Steve Casey
Myra Castro
Delmy Chacon-Martinez
Mallory Cherry
Joan Christel
Aida Corredor
Raquel De Leon
Miguelina Del Rosario
Ernst and Esmeralda Dhiel
David Diaz
Myriam Diaz
Kenneth Dupuis
Matt Dyer
Dave Dzagunis
Iris Figueroa
Carmen Florentino
Mario Flores
Crystal Gaikwad
Martha Garzon
Bonnie Gillespie
Sylvia Gonzalez
Erik and Karin Hernandez
Patricia Lee
Roberto and Mercedes
Nikiesha Marshall
Rebecca Mautner
Evelyn Maya
Kevin and Joanne McNally
Oscar Mendoza
Timothy Miller
Tulio Molina
Trish Montenegro
Oliria Munoz
Elias Ortiz
Andres Paredes
Miguel Perez
Jean Peteet
Miguel and Stella Preciado
Michael and Madeline Prendergast
Miguel Prieto
Yoxmar Rodriguez
Jabes Rojas
Victor Roman
Graciela Rosario
Sadel Sano
Omar and Aidymaris Soto
Jenny Styers
Diana Thompson
Mario Ulloa
Tania and Arnolt Ramos
Tracy Wemett
Claudia Zelada

Esther B. Kahn Charitable Foundation
Roxbury Trust Fund
BALF Foundation
Barr Foundation
Community Development Block Grant
Community Gems
Hyams Foundation
United Way
Yawkey Foundation
The Clipper Ship Foundation
U.S. Department of Education

Interview with a HERC Mentor
by Alphonso Westley
Sam Edminston shares some thoughts about mentoring.

1. What made you decide to sign-up for the Boston HERC Mentor Program?

I signed up for the HERC Mentor Program in the spring of 2004 after reading a three-line notice in a bulletin at the church where I was attending at the time. The notice merely stated that mentors were needed to assist Boston area Latino students in college preparation. I boasted no lofty or noble reasons when I decided to volunteer. Mainly, I wondered with fear and doubt whether I would be a good role model. My own life as a beginning attorney was so busy, 'how could I possibly find time?' I was almost 30 at the time, too old? Surely the SAT and admissions processes had changed since the 90's. Will I possess the wisdom and strength to help guide a young man into adulthood? By grace, these and other doubts were confronted and I joined with my wife in HERC's mentor training and pairing process, the first step in a wonderful journey that's now over four years long but seems now like a blink of the eye.

2. What has been the most enjoyable aspect of being in the Mentor Program?

The most enjoyable part of the HERC mentor program is just the sense of community. Mutual support pervades HERC's activities. The staff is tremendously encouraging. Parents are enthusiastic. If there are "issues" or "drama," the program promotes an open culture where everyone feels comfortable approaching each other for solutions, possible approaches and prayer. The sense of being a part of positive development, everyone focused, determined and working constructively together to achieve the same high standards in the face of innumerable obstacles is immensely satisfying. Also, there's intrinsic joy in being involved in the life of my mentee, Sam, his family, education, sharing in his goals and struggles. By the way, the Red Sox games, socials and pot-lucks are a blast too!

3. What surprised you most about being a mentor or what surprised you most about your student mentee?

The most surprising part about being a mentor was the constant surprises. In general, I knew that HERC held itself out as offering an opportunity to hold students to high standards using holistic approaches. I did not expect the extent to which staff, fellow mentors and other mentees opened themselves to one another on a personal level. Another refreshing surprise was the diversity. I encountered not just Latino Christians, but also a broad range of individuals from various races, ethnic backgrounds, socio-economic status and different religions. HERC's genuine culture of equality was surprising just because I've been involved in many charities where despite everyone's best intentions, pernicious paternalism or dependency sets in, but at HERC the relational culture of mutual respect remained consistently high so that I never sensed that anyone felt on the giving or receiving end of "charity" at least in the negative hierarchical sense of that term.

4. Is there anything that you would like to say to alumni/perspective volunteers who are thinking about becoming mentors?

To people considering this opportunity, I would simply say "do it." Consider it with all your heart. HERC is among those precious organizations that doesn't just urge the realization of potential but assumes it, working collectively toward high standards while embodying them. You can be a part of that! What an opportunity! Like I had, you may be having doubts wondering if you're "qualified." Don't worry. It is enough if you have a seed of interest. Your motives need be neither "pure" nor "noble" so long as their foundation rests upon humility and their trajectory point toward service. Apply yourself and you have everything to gain and nothing to lose.

Interview with HERC ESOL and Computer Literacy Volunteer
by Erin McNally
Learning from Patricia Lee's volunteering experience

Patricia Lee began volunteering at the Boston HERC in the summer of 2007 as an assistant computer literacy teacher. She has since taught computer literacy classes, ESOL classes, and has been a constant source of support for HERC's staff.

Q. What has your experience been like?

A. I love working at HERC. I've been blessed with the opportunity to give back to the community, to share in community building, and to learn about other Hispanic cultures. I've made friendships as well with students; I feel very encouraged by them. No matter what age group they're part of, they're really open to learning. This has fostered my idea of returning to school and motivated me to put it into action. I'm going back in the fall to study Community Economic Development. I'm so inspired by the students. I've also brushed up on my Spanish. I've learned how to teach and how to relate to people. I've grown in patience and faith. I love the classroom setting; I've gotten to know different people, and with everything that everyone brings to the table, it's an awesome place to be.

Q. How have you seen transformation happen in your students?

A. Each student helps one another. They've made friendships with one another and organize their own get-togethers. I've seen them gain a sense of security and motivation to further their education. We had 'A Night to Dream' event, where the students and teachers focused on vision-casting. We focused on visions that we may have put on the back burner because of life (working, taking care of kids, etc.) We left those dreams and visions behind and let them get dusty. But now, people are starting to look at the possibilities of working towards visions and dreams with God on their side, praying and encouraging one another.

Q. What motivates you to keep volunteering?

A. I've just been so blessed by HERC, by staff, by the students, by the teachers, and by giving. It's something that when you give, you get back. I'm a giver, and being able to serve is a blessing. Like the Scriptures say, "Give, and it will be given to you." What comes to mind is 'Give and it will be given to you.' I've been blessed in any every area: with my family, with starting school in the fall to continue to reach out to God's destiny for me.

Welcome, Jasiel!

Jasiel Fernandez Joins the Boston HERC as the Adult Basic Education Program Coordinator

We are very excited to welcome Jasiel to the HERC team. Prior to joining us full-time, she served as a teacher in our ESOL program for 4 semesters. In her current capacity, she will be coordinating the ESOL and Computer Education programs, and providing career and educational counseling to program participants. She joins us from the Metropolitan Boston Housing Partnerships, where she served as Program Manager. Welcome, Jasiel!

Mark Your Calendar for Community Gems!

Community Gems logoThis fundraising event celebrates the work of the Boston HERC and 6 other community-based organizations in Boston area. Thanks to HERC's friends, who supported the event last year, we received a $33,500 grant. Please join us again this year, on Saturday, December 6th, from 6-9 PM, for a wonderful evening of great music, food, and entertainment for all ages. Tickets are $50 each. For more information and to purchase tickets, please call the HERC office at (617) 442-5608. We hope you can make it!

Contact Information
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Estoy agradecido con Dios y con Ustedes por su congregacion he aprendido tanto y me he llenado mucho con sus palabras quiero decirle que en el internet hay tanto de paginas cristianas pero esta congregacion es la que mas me hace sentir el señor que me quede sigan asi y que el señor los bendiga y ahora soy una bebe en las cosas del señor pero tengo tanta sed de el que cuando me suba a otro nivel yo les voy a contar. Su amiga y hermana en cristo vicky.

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