Linguistics students rise to Bold Ideas challenge

ESL class at Fresno Adult School

~ By Lisa Maria Boyles, communications specialist for the College of Arts and Humanities

As part of President Joseph I. Castro’s “Bold Ideas Challenge Project,” Fresno State dedicated funds to support the Touch the Community Competition, a community service competition engaging student teams that are addressing significant community challenges.

Across the University, eight teams – consisting of about 60 students – are working on various challenges designed to Touch the Community beyond Fresno State. Each team has a faculty or staff supervisor, as well as a community benefit agency supervisor.

One of those eight teams – the only one from the College of Arts and Humanities – has engaged students from the Department of Linguistics as Community ESL Teaching Assistants (CETA), working with students taking English as a Second Language classes through Fresno Adult Schools throughout Fresno.

The team includes Dr. Ellen Lipp, the faculty mentor; Tommie Martinez,  the Fresno Adult School mentor; and Reagan Clark, the graduate student mentor. Seven student volunteers participated in the fall, and eight students are participating this semester.

IMG_1829Last month, the eight Touch the Community teams presented the results of their projects at the President’s Showcase of Excellence on April 21 in the Satellite Student Union. The linguistics department project took second place in the competition.

Team projects were judged on the following criteria:

  • The measurable impact the project had on the community.
  • Overall development, implementation and adaptation of the project plan.
  • Documentation of the project in print and electronic media.
  • Effective use of funds allocated.
  • Ability to raise additional funds, as needed.
  • Ability to raise larger community awareness of issue and project.

Three parties benefit from the CETA work:

  • University TESL students get experience by working hands-on.
  • Adult school ESL students receive more level-specific attention.
  • With the classes divided into smaller groups, adult school ESL teachers are able to manage their responsibilities more effectively.

Fresno Adult School, the Linguistics Club and the CETA project will present a special event from 3-4:30 p.m. on Friday, March 31, at the Fresno Adult School, 2500 Stanislaus St. Parking is free. Attendees will be able to hear testimonials about the impact of the project and plans to continue it in the future. The event will include music and hors d’oeuvres.

Community members are invited to support the project so that it can continue next fall.

Marielena Linares, a senior, is one of the linguistics students who has volunteered with the program. Her own experience as an ESL student gave her a connection to one of the students she worked with:

“I met a young man taking ESL classes because his goal was to attend Fresno State.  When I told him that growing up I was an ESL student, he got really excited and began asking me all kinds of questions about college.  I can tell that he was motivated to continue attending class, and I realized that our jobs as volunteers can have a greater impact than just helping with the material in the classroom.  It feels good helping others through their journey.”

Information is available by contacting Lipp at

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The College of Arts and Humanities provides a diverse student population with the communication skills, humanistic values and cultural awareness that form the foundation of scholarship. The college offers intellectual and artistic programs that engage students and faculty and the community in collaboration, dialog and discovery. These programs help preserve, illuminate and nourish the arts and humanities for the campus and for the wider community.

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