“No hablo espanol” is a phrase many hispanic children in America have to hear when they are stuck in a world where no one can understand the words that escape their lips. There is passion to learn, but a barrier between the language used to teach them. Many of them don’t even believe they can make it in the U.S. due to their culture.
In order to give back to the hispanic community and give hope to children who had none, a University of Georgia student became the senior administrative assistant of Oasis Catolico,an after school program for Latino children in Athens whose second language is English.
Elizabeth Morales, the third year international affairs major from Fort Valley, said she began working at Oasis Catolico in the fall of 2013. The program brings in UGA students who tutor reading and math to 110 children from Pre-K to third grade in the Pinewood community.
“My job description includes managing the program, supervising tutors and volunteers, recruiting tutors and making sure the children get as much out of the program as they should,” Morales said.
Morales said she wanted to join Oasis Catolico because she was raised in a community similar to the one where the program is held.
“Being of hispanic background and knowing I was the first one in my entire family to go to college made me want to help other children understand that it’s possible to one day get to the University of Georgia,” she said. “The first time I found out about this after school program, I knew that I needed to help out.”
Morales is also the founder of the UGA organization known as Project Hope, an organization determined to recruiting volunteers for Oasis Catolico and having service projects for the community.
“The hardest part of my job as administrative assistant is being able to manage many things at once, such as being able to handle a child emergency at the same time that a volunteer needs to fill out paperwork,” Morales said. “You have to be able to be in many places at once at a place that has 110 children, 200 volunteers and only three staff members.”
Qing Zhu, a graduate student at UGA and a former Oasis tutor joined Oasis as a part of a class assignment and said she fell in love with the program.
“You have the chance to get hands on experience to working with kids who are second language learners and it’s beneficial to them,” Zhu said.
Zhu also said she saw Morales as a well organized administrator.
“My first time volunteering at Oasis was really overwhelming because I had to fill a lot of forms and applications and she helped me a lot and made the process really simple and told me when to register and what kind of forms to bring,” she said. “She was a very caring person and I really appreciated that.”
Christina Cotsakis, the administrative assistant who works under Morales, said Morales is dedicated to the community as a whole, even if it doesn’t fall under her job description.
“Elizabeth always goes out of her way to really help out the kids in situations that even some moms can’t help with,” Cotsakis said. “She is truly proactive and always seeking to make new alliances with organizations on campus to help Oasis succeed.”
Morales said the kids always lets her know how much they appreciate her.
“Oasis Catolico is my way of giving back for everything that I’ve been able to accomplish. I basically want to let the children know that anything is possible.”