Spanish students volunteer virtually at learning center in Mexico


The Oaxaca Learning Center (TOLC) in Mexico has been a beacon of hope and progress, providing no-fee academic tutoring and training along with social services to low-income students from educationally under-served urban neighborhoods and indigenous rural communities in the State of Oaxaca. Its mission is to empower Oaxacan youth with the skills and confidence needed to envision and realize a brighter future. The center focuses on academic support in subjects like math, physics, chemistry, and English, while also offering mentoring and personal development opportunities within a holistic learning environment.

Recently, three Spanish students – Emily O’Quin, Miranda Castillo, and Alba Mastromatteo – had the opportunity to participate in virtual volunteering with this transformative program during the fall semester.

Their involvement is a shining example of how cross-cultural and international collaboration can enhance educational initiatives and foster personal growth. O’Quin, Castillo, and Mastromatteo each brought their unique perspectives and skills to the table, contributing significantly to the Learning Center's mission.

Virtual Volunteering
The photo is an example of virtual tutoring among students and volunteers. Photo credit: The Oaxaca Learning Center.

"Working with TOLC I learned more about Mexican culture as well as how someone my age experiences life within that culture. My knowledge of Spanish was helpful as it helped me help him with his English. If my partner was ever missing a word in his English vocabulary, I could help him find what he wanted to say. Also, it seemed to help him be more comfortable around me when he talked in Spanish as he was more in his own element. I would recommend other Spanish speaking students to volunteer with the Oaxaca Learning Center because it was a unique experience to both immerse yourself in the language as well as learn more about other people's lives and cultures." - Alba Mastromatteo

"During my time working with the Oaxaca Learning Center I met with Abril, a 15- year-old living in Oaxaca Mexico. We spoke in Spanish and English about our hobbies, likes, and dislikes. We discussed food, movies, music, and what our lives were like. It was nice to meet someone so passionate about learning English. [This experience allowed me] to practice my speaking with a native Spanish speaker. I think it also helped to have a variety of people to practice with, not just my professors. I would recommend that other Spanish students volunteer with the Oaxaca Learning Center, however I would advise them to be aware that some days there will be connection issues on the Oaxaca side, so the Intercambios will not happen." - Emily O'Quin

"While volunteering I was able to learn more about Mexican culture and the daily life of a young student. [Thanks to my knowledge of Spanish] I was able to translate words from Spanish to English when my partner wasn't sure what a certain thing was called or if she had forgotten. I think it is a fun way to make connections in another country and learn the differences between your own culture and someone else's." - Miranda Castillo

These students’ experiences highlight the profound impact that volunteering can have, not just on the communities served, but also on the volunteers themselves, remarks Dr. Alexis Ortiz. "The Oaxaca Learning Center's focus on providing academic support and fostering self-confidence and leadership skills in its students makes it a unique and vital resource for the Oaxacan community. The contributions of volunteers like Emily, Miranda, and Alba help ensure the Center's ongoing success and the fulfillment of its mission."