Naotaro (Nari) Kato is a junior at Brown concentrating in Education Studies, who builds learning partnerships and opportunities by teaching English to adult speakers of other languages. As a Swearer Center for Public Service Bonner Community Fellow, Nari serves as a leader with English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), which engages with a community partner, the RI Family Literacy Initiative of the Providence Public Library. For two and a half years, Nari has served the adult immigrant community in the Olneyville section of Providence. He roots his approach to social change on the belief that for many people in Olneyville, language is a fundamental barrier for accessing public services, presenting their needs, and communicating with others. Nari has worked tirelessly to provide a language education that responds to these needs in a creative, engaging way. While teaching is often framed as a one-directional flow from the teacher to the student, Nari creates classrooms where everyone, including himself, can grow and learn from each other. Nari regularly seeks out training, mentors and creative methods of teaching in order to perfect his craft and provide the highest quality education to his learners, as a strategy to address their marginalization.
I am one of many college students referred to as “the children of immigration” who have witnessed and experienced how the English language barrier restrains our families and communities in the US. Language is a source of power. It allows a person to express thoughts, build connections, fight injustice, and strive for change. Working in the Adult ELL community in Providence has been a meaningful part of my time in college. Through the Bonner Community Fellows Program at Brown University, I work with English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), a student-led group that works to address the marginalizing effects of language barriers by providing English language and literacy classes to adult immigrants in the Providence community. At ESOL, we strive to move away from traditional methods of teaching based on standards and workbooks. Instead, we use creative approaches to language learning which we build off the needs and requests of the learners. More than anything, we want our learners to feel that they have a sense of voice, a way to humanize through the English language. After college, I aspire to continue teaching, because I do believe that the classroom can be a long-term pathway to social change.