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Volunteer Opportunities

About Our Programs

The Romance Languages Department, in partnership with Student Union, offers the Latino Youth Tutoring/Mentoring Programs: three volunteer programs for Students of Spanish with Intermediate level (Sp 201 or Sp 301) or Advanced/Intermediate level (Sp 307 or higher) who would like to serve the young Latino community in St. Louis at the same time they are practicing their Spanish skills.

The programs are:

  • Niños Program working with elementary school Latino children
  • Cambios Program working with mid and high school Latino youth
  • Puertas Program a college prep working with Latino juniors, seniors and high school graduates

All of the Latino Youth Tutoring/Mentoring Programs work with the ESOL Bilingual Migrant Program of the St. Louis Public Schools system. The Latino students that we serve are from South St. Louis, where you find the biggest concentration of the Hispanic population in the St. Louis Metropolitan area.

join us!

For more details or to join us, contact via the general email address below, or by getting in touch with Virginia Braxs in the Department of Romance Languages & Literatures.

contact email

Program Details

The Niños Program 

The Niños program works with Hispanic children between 6 and 10 years old. Most of the Latino children speak little or no English, so ESL is the focus of the program, as well as math, reading, and writing. Art projects are an essential part of the activities, as well as games and play.

The Cambios Program 

The Cambios Program works with Latino youth ages 11 to 19, assisting them with school homework and improving their English, math and science skills. Mentoring activities are essential, targeting topics that range from friendship, gangs, and drugs to higher education and healthy lifestyles.

The Puertas Program

The Puertas Program is a college prep program helping Latino high school juniors, seniors or graduates to study for the ACT exam, as well as preparing resumes, writing college essays, applying for scholarships, and visiting and applying to local community colleges and universities of the student’s choice. We are happy to report that Puertas Program has helped over a dozen first-generation Latino students to go to college. In 2007, the Romance Languages & Literatures Department, in partnership with the local non-profit Hispanic Arts Council of St. Louis, created the John F. Garganigo Scholarship in honor of retiring Prof. John Garganigo to support the Puertas Program Latino students going to college. Latino students receive an annual scholarship during the length of their college studies.

use your language skills to strengthen the community

Niños Cambios Puertas Volunteer Program was founded in 1996 to provide tutoring and mentoring to Latino youth in St. Louis. Niños tutors help elementary school students with homework and supplementary reading and math exercises. Cambios tutors work with middle and high school students, helping them do homework and study for tests. Puertas is a college preparation program, where students study for the ACT, find scholarships, and create resumes. Each tutor works with the same 1 – 3 children every week, so we are able to foster trustful, stable relationships between the tutor and student.

Niños, Cambios, & Puertas Tutoring Programs

Do you want to tutor/mentor underserved Hispanic youth in South St. Louis, helping them with homework, playing games, preparing them for college?

Program History

We have been working very successfully in partnership, since 1996, with several local non profit organizations through our volunteer programs: Southside Catholic Community Services, Catholic Families, Acción Social Comunitaria, La Clinica, Carpenter Branch St. Louis Public Library, and St. Louis Public Schools. Currently we are working with the ESOL Bilingual Migrant Programs of the St. Louis Public School system. The programs take place at the Central Visual and Performing Art High School, located at the corner of Kingshighway and Arsenal, in south St. Louis. The ESOL Bilingual Migrant Program offers educational programs for low-income migrant communities in town, from daycare to adult literacy.

At the Latino Youth Tutoring/Mentoring Programs, college volunteer tutors/mentors help Latino elementary, mid and high school students with homework, math, science, English language, and art projects. Volunteers also plan and lead fun and creative activities/games, as well as a few optional field trips. Tutors/Mentors function as role models, helping and encouraging the kids to stay in school. Volunteers also talk with them about issues that are related to their age and social experiences.

The programs, which are very successful, started with 5 volunteer tutors in 1996 at the Spanish Section of the Romance Languages Department at Washington University, doing tutoring to 8 Latino students and taking them to some weekend activities/field trips as well. Since then, we have grown to 60-80 volunteer tutors per semester, tutoring 30 to 35 Latino youth. Volunteers undergo training sessions and always have the support and help of Student Union, the Romance Languages & Literatures Department, as well as the St. Louis Public Schools system (SLPS). We work in conjunction with the SLPS's social worker, coordinator of programs and director, as well as Washington University student leaders, and the Romance Languages Department's Faculty Mentor for orientation and assistance. The SLPS ESOL Bilingual Migrant Program has a great, caring, professional, and outgoing staff of social workers and educators, and Washington University student tutors working there are very happy, safe, and very well taken care of.