SMU students connect with refugee children at Heart House of Dallas

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Every Tuesday and Thursday SMU students in Dr. English’s Education and Literacy class visit Heart House of Dallas in Vickery Meadows.

The Heart House is home to an after school program that helps refugee children acclimate to life in the United States. SMU students spend their time at the Heart House tutoring the children by teaching them basic reading and writing skills. Although they are there to help the children on an educational level, the students form bonds with the children that will last even when the semester is over.

Jasmine Sanchez is a mentor for the after school program and explained that its main goal is to help transfer the children from their lives of chaos to calm. These refugees, ranging from kindergarten age through the fourth grade, have already endured a lifetime of continuous upheaval in their few short years. They rely on the Heart House to help find a healthy balance in their lives.

The Heart House follows a set curriculum to ensure that the children are getting the most out of their time spent there.

“We use a curriculum based on emotional learning, mindfulness and art to properly teach the children,” Sanchez said.

That is where Dr. English’s class comes in. The first month of the semester is fully dedicated to teaching the students about the preferred curriculum before interacting with the children. Once they are educated on the proper tutoring and teaching techniques, the students are then introduced to both the program and the children.

Once the children arrive at Heart House, SMU students begin helping them with their daily homework. Once school work is completed, they play until it is time for their snack. After this short period of relaxation, the students are separated into different groups according to their English skills and are paired with an SMU student. The university students then spend the remaining time teaching the refugee students new vocabulary with a strong focus on advancing their reading and writing skills.

SMU senior Hadley May is one of the students in Dr. English’s class and admits to forming special bonds with many of the children.

“I have seen so much progress within so many of the students. The entire semester was so much fun and it is so nice knowing that I was so much more than just a tutor. I became their friend,” May said.

English is the second language of most of the refugee children. Many of them have traveled to America from different countries in Africa and Asia and have yet to learn the proper grammatical rules that make up the complexities of the English language. To uphold the ideals of emotional learning within the curriculum, the SMU students play a number of reading games such as bingo and checkers to make the learning process more enjoyable for the children.

Even though the SMU students primarily attend Heart House to tutor and teach refugee children, they end up doing so much more. At the end of the day the children do not want to see their tutors leave and express their excitement for their next session.

To donate to the Heart House of Dallas click here.

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