Meet “Everyday Hero” Lizzie White who is learning Spanish to help immigrants.
Lizzie White is a champion for immigrant rights, working to improve the lives of documented and undocumented children. She first became a Fluent City student in 2014 when working as Assistant Swim School Principal at Asphalt Green, a nonprofit that provides free and low-cost fitness services to 33,000 children each year. Says Lizzie, Spanish was particularly useful when working with the parents of second graders in public school programming offered by the nonprofit:
“We wanted to create materials for parents including myths about swimming and how to get their children prepared, and what the lessons would entail. I was translating materials we offer in English and talking with parents, trying to get them onboard with teaching their kids how to swim.”
Lizzie had some exposure to Spanish including a year living in Spain during college. However, she says her Spanish was getting rusty:
“I wasn’t practicing on a daily basis and knew my grammar was lacking. If you don’t use it, it’s not as readily available to you, and the recall process gets difficult. I knew it was in there somewhere but I wanted to feel more confident about my abilities.”
Lizzie’s Level 5 and 6 classes helped her brush up on her grammar including the subjunctive, and feel good about working with high school juniors in the lifeguard program:
“Fluent City class helped me realize how much I did know, and that I wasn’t starting from scratch. That was a good feeling, and made me more comfortable communicating in Spanish with high school students during our lifeguard trainings.”
While Lizzie was able to use her Spanish immediately in her day job, the deeper motivation for fine-tuning her language skills was to prep for law school. She is now in her second year at CUNY Law School, focusing on social justice and immigration reform. Lizzie recognizes that several of the people she hopes to help will likely only be able to communicate in Spanish, Arabic and languages other than English.
This past summer, Lizzie interned with Atlas: DIY, an incubator of education and legal help for undocumented youth. Through Spanish, Lizzie was able to help youth from countries such as Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala fill out legal paperwork and work towards becoming protected legal citizens.
Lizzie (right side, white shirt and black skirt) poses with some of the youth she worked with during her summer at Atlas: DIY.
While part of Lizzie’s job was to provide legal support, she says the most important work she did was talking directly with youth members, making sure they felt empowered and welcomed to ESL classes, social activities and community space offered by the organization.
“Learning Spanish was one of the best and most important things I did in my life and will continue doing,” says Lizzie. “I’m still learning. I’m a perpetual student. There are always new slang words, new ways to say things, new vocabulary to learn. I will keep studying for the rest of my life, as I never want to lose those skills.”
Join Lizzie in making a difference:
- Visit https://www.asphaltgreen.org/donate to make sports and fitness programs available to all New Yorkers.
- Visit http://www.atlasdiy.org/donate/ to make a donation that helps undocumented youth with 100% free legal aid, educational guidance and emotional empowerment.
- Visit http://www.fluentcity.com to learn a new language that will help you connect with the communities you serve.