Restoring Voices through Reading

UCAN student Rico is a junior at Crawford High School and reads at a 2nd grade level.  His joyful demeanor masks a too common reality for recently resettled immigrants in this country – Rico is voiceless.  

Rico arrived to the United States from Guatemala in 2014 and was enrolled in school not knowing a single word of English and little Spanish, as his native language is a Mayan dialect spoken by only a small group of people in the world –Kaqchikel.    


At Crawford High, with over 30 registered languages and 80 different dialects spoken by the student body, it is an understatement to say that the school is poorly equipped to fully address the needs of its students. Rico is chronically behind in his classes, has a low GPA, and recently became ineligible to run on Crawford’s Cross Country team –the one level-playing field he had available to him.


When we met Rico and saw the huge gap between what he needed and what his high school could resource, UrbanLife knew it had to help. It is not justifiable to blame teachers and there was no more time to wait for ESL academic-reform, so UCAN devoted resources to bridging the remediation gap. This summer, UCAN hosted a five-week summer Literacy Program focused around five core reading strategies with high need ESL students. And this fall, UCAN completely shifted its focus to English & Reading Comprehension remediation in response to so many of our students in similar situations. Volunteers like Doug and Jeannie Amidon prepare customized ESL lessons to work one-on-one with Rico and other students who are recent arrivals.


We must continue to help Rico, because no one else is. We can’t let him be shuffled onto the next grade because of an under-resourced public high school.  Help us protect Rico from exploitation or becoming even more susceptible to illegal activity as a means to earn a living.  Instead, let’s get Rico to proficient 11th grade English, a monumental goal given the limited time we have.  But with your help, Rico hunger to learn the language and his commitment to show up at UCAN we can create a different future for this young student.