Partnership with the Forest Grove School District: meeting the needs of ESL students

March 23, 2015

A strong example of an initiative at Pacific University that both teaches citizenship skills to students and enables the University to be a citizen in the community is our multi-faceted partnership with the Forest Grove School District. This school district has a very high percentage of students on free and reduced-cost lunch program and a rapidly increasing population of Spanish-speaking students. Limited funding from the State challenges the district to meet student needs and as a result it depends heavily on assistance from the community.

Students from Pacific tutor English as a Second Language students, read to primary grade students through the state-wide SMART (Start Making A Reader Today) program, tutor children in math, and lead after school recreation programs. Pacific students have initiated several after school programs at the nearby upper elementary school. These include French Club, Japanese Club (taught by students from the English Language Institute), and Peace Club (which leads students in activities and discussion on community building and non-violent conflict resolution). The Big Buddy Program pairs Pacific men with young boys for mentoring and needed extra attention.

EACH (Environmental Awareness Cultural Hacienda) gives ESL students a grounding in environmental understanding as preparation for Outdoor School. This project was begun by a Hispanic high school student who later enrolled at Pacific University. The class will be institutionalized as one of the projects in next year’s Pacific AmeriCorps program that will place thirteen Pacific students in part-time positions in the schools. Other students in this program will be doing their student teaching in the district’s high impact schools. This work meets a critical need in the community, but also provides students with opportunities to learn life-long citizenship skills. Through service learning classes in Sociology, Anthropology, First Year Seminar, World Languages, Psychology, Peace and Conflict Studies, Education, and reflection sessions through the Humanitarian Center, students process these experiences and make connections to their lives as citizens. They learn to value cultures other than their own, understand the challenges of adequately supporting schools, appreciate the importance of providing assistance to a troubled child, and feel the gratification that a program they initiated and ran is having a meaningful impact in the community.

Contact person: Ellen Hastay (, Director of the Humanitarian Center and Service Learning Coordinator

Humanitarian Center web site

Pacific University - OR, Oregon
President: Faith Gabelnick
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