Volunteer finds joy offering ESL classes to migrants at Samaritan House

Patrick is a substitute teacher for Denver Public Schools who dedicates his Tuesday afternoons to bringing the art of the English language to migrants at Samaritan House. Since November of 2022, the influx of migrants from Spanish- speaking countries to Denver has brought about challenges. Patrick started the English as a Second Language classes at Samaritan House to alleviate the stressors of acclimating to a new culture.

Patrick starts off each class at Samaritan House the same. ¿De dónde eres? (Where are you from?) Each student has a different answer but it’s clear that the common goal is to succeed in a new country. With notebooks out and full attention shifted to the front of the room, students in this highly attended class are committed.

Week by week, the answers flow easier. Patrick ensures that each student is empowered to ask questions. He understands that learning something completely foreign can be uncomfortable. Patrick’s ability to help his students feel at ease comes from his background. His immigration work began about ten years ago when he volunteered with Casa de Paz, an organization that reunites families separated by ICE immigrant detention. Patrick’s career in teaching shifted, and he set out on a journey to help international students, refugees and immigrants learn the tools needed to navigate their new lives. He visited and advocated for immigrants incarcerated in Aurora as well as those facing deportation.

Since then, Patrick has volunteered with Catholic Charities as well as Lutheran Family Services to help Afghan families. Currently, Patrick works with Colorado Hosting Asylum Network (CHAN) supporting Venezuelan families. This endeavor led him to volunteer at Samaritan House teaching English as a second language.

“I believe that the ability to speak, read, write and use English is essential to succeed in the United States. Many immigrants face limited employment opportunities because they don’t speak English,” shared Patrick. “Currently, people are being exploited due to wage theft and contract fraud. Many times, this happens due to peoples’ immigration status and lack of English skills. The classes I teach stress basic communication skills to help people work and survive in the United States.”

Since the class began a few weeks ago, migrants living at Samaritan House use what they’ve been taught to communicate with shelter staff for basic needs. More importantly, it has brought about a sense of home to our new neighbors.

“My students are a delight and I enjoy my time with them immensely. They are engaged, motivated and appreciative of my efforts. Their commitment to learn inspires me and brings joy to my life,” said Patrick.