Every Monday evening from 6:30-8 p.m., Marian University students taking French courses meet at St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church to tutor students of French speaking immigrant families in the Indianapolis area, most of whom come from Togo and the Central African Republic.
Martine Camblor, assistant professor of French and director of the Language Center and foreign language placement testing, reached out to Father Michael Hoyt, pastor at the church, after learning about the Mass in French held the second Sunday of each month. She was interested in seeing how her students could help French speaking families in the community.
“I want my students to be in contact with this community because I want them to realize that French is really everywhere. We have this community growing from immigrants. I thought this would be a wonderful opportunity,” Camblor said.
During the sessions, Marian University students get paired with an elementary, middle, or high school student and help with all subjects from science and math to reading and writing.
“All of the parents are French speakers of course, but they cannot really help the children because the system they are coming from is a French system. These tutoring sessions are comforting to the parents,” Camblor said. “They are limited in helping their children—not because they aren’t educated—but because we are confronting two different systems. Most of the time, they don’t understand the instructions for the assignments. There’s a whole language you don’t know unless you attended American schools.”
The sessions started out as a six-week program last spring, but was quickly extended and renewed for the next year because of its success in helping students and linking families of different faith and cultural backgrounds.
“The kids love to meet. They adore that. Even if they don’t have any homework that evening, they come up with something to do. It’s a joy for the tutors,” Camblor said. “It says a lot to me about our students on campus. It says that they are generous of their time and knowledge. It says they understand that they are privileged in many different ways. They are reaching out and give what they have."