News & Blog: Learner Stories


Written by Sara Miller, ATP Coordinator

At age 17, Rut left her home in rural Guatemala and made her way over 2,500 miles to Grand Rapids, Michigan. She had two brothers here, who wanted her to come to the U.S. to better her English skills and further her education. And, though it hasn’t been easy, Rut is doing just that. She had taken two English as a Second Language (ESL) classes at GRCC and, although the pandemic slowed down her plans, she will start her final English prerequisite class in May. In the fall, she will begin her education as a graphic designer!

Rut first joined the Adult Tutoring Program through the Literacy Center in November of 2018 but left and rejoined in 2021. That’s how she met her current tutor, Morgan, 18, who went through our tutor training in January of 2021. Morgan remembers feeling intimidated by the other people in her workshop. “They were all teachers and professionals with a lot of experience” she says, noting that she herself is still in high school. She worried that at her young age, she wouldn’t have much to offer.

When Rut and Morgan met, they were both happy to be paired with someone close to their own age. But despite that similarity, they had led very different lives. Morgan was amazed at Rut’s story. She couldn’t imagine undertaking such a journey at her age, let alone a year younger! She wanted to do her best to help Rut prepare for college success. “I knew I couldn’t teach at a college level” Morgan says, “I learn best through direct application, so I try to provide that for Rut.”

Their lessons are packed with activities; from news articles and videos, to writing prompts and discussions, to reading 10 Things You Should Know, they do their best to cover all the skills and make the most of their two hours together every week. Morgan’s favorite part of their meetings is reading Rut’s writing, while Rut loves the conversations they have. When asked about their least favorite part of their time together, Morgan laments the virtual aspect and wishes they could connect in person. Rut laughs and says that sometimes the reading is hard work, but she knows it’s important for her.

Rut is not one to shy away from hard work, and she enjoys pushing herself. She is studying for her driver’s license test, and although there is a Spanish version available, she plans to take it in English, “for the challenge.” She is excited to meet her classmates and make new friends despite wishing her classes could be in person instead of virtual. One of the biggest challenges for Rut is learning to express herself in her new language. She wants to be the same person she is in Spanish, but, “it’s difficult to move my whole self into English,” she shares. She worries that her sense of humor won’t translate, or that her limited vocabulary could come across as awkward. Through her discussions with Morgan, Rut is learning how people her age use English naturally; it’s very different than what she finds in the textbooks!

English isn’t the only thing being learned in their lessons. “Rut really inspires me.” Morgan says. “She’s a great reminder not to take my education for granted, and the opportunities available after I graduate.” As both Rut and Morgan prepare to start college classes in the fall, they also look forward to a continuing friendship. “Even after we finish the tutoring program, Rut can always ask me for help. And maybe she can even help me with my Spanish classes.” Morgan teases. Rut replies enthusiastically with the same answer she has for all her challenges: “Yes I can!”

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