Utah Saints Inspired to Help Their Neighbors’ Children

Contributed By Carl and Bonnie Simpson, Church News contributors

  • 1 September 2017

Alejandra Baños, age 10, reads to her tutor, Sister Sandra Smith, as Valeria Baños, age 7, awaits her turn to read.  Photo by Carl Simpson.

Article Highlights

  • Ward members organized a tutoring program to help children struggling in school.
  • Tutors help increase children’s confidence in speaking English through weekly visits.
  • The service benefits the children as they prepare for lifelong improvement and learning.

President Ron Munns of the Spanish-speaking River 9th Branch in West Jordan, Utah, noted that the children within his branch were struggling in school. He asked us, as newly assigned Church-service missionaries, to help him organize a tutoring program to improve the English skills of children in our branch who were having difficulty with school assignments.

He was inspired to find families whose children were struggling in school, in households where the parents spoke little or no English, and he worked with our stake president and the bishops of the English wards in our stake to find volunteer tutors. The tutors would visit the children’s homes once a week for about an hour and, with support from the children’s parents, would help the children improve their reading skills and know what teachers expected on their schoolwork.

Because only two of the volunteer tutors spoke fluent Spanish, some of them wondered how they could help. Because of our previous experiences teaching English to Spanish speakers as Church-service missionaries, we were able to tell these volunteers that our service was always returned with love and kindness far beyond anything that we had done, and we had gained many lifelong friends from our experience. Despite our language limitations as non-Spanish speakers, we were always able to communicate in some way and had many rewarding and spiritual experiences.

Now in progress for almost 11 months, this tutoring program in our branch has also had much success. Our tutors have all reported having wonderful experiences, and the children’s confidence in speaking English and doing schoolwork has markedly improved, as have their grades. One of the children, a 13-year-old young man, excitedly told us, “All of my grades in school have improved, except in Spanish!”

Our branch president’s hope is that these children will continue to enjoy success, providing them with greater educational opportunities and better preparation to serve as missionaries and provide for themselves and their own families.

Brian Vela discusses the book he is reading with his tutor, Brother John Featherstone. Photo by Carl Simpson.

As we witness the success of this program and the blessings in the lives of the faithful members who volunteer their time as tutors, we remember Matthew 25:40: “Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”

What a blessing it is to serve with leaders who are inspired of God and His Holy Spirit in ways that enable us, as disciples of Jesus Christ, to assist Him in blessing the lives of His beloved children.

Sister Betty Featherstone listens to Shaylee Vela read a story in English. Photo by Carl Simpson.

Three sisters—Alejandra, Valeria, and Andreas Baños—look at new books to read to their tutors, Sandra and Larry Smith of West Jordan, Utah. Photo by Carl Simpson.

Kelly Cleverly quizzes Henyerly Guevara on timekeeping using a wall clock. Photo by Carl Simpson.

Andrea Baños, age 9, reads to her tutor, Brother Larry Smith, and her mother, Ruby. Photo by Carl Simpson.

Jesus Guevara reads to his tutor, Arletta Cleverly of the West Jordan Utah River Stake. Photo by Carl Simpson.

Leander Guevara listens as his tutor, Lamoni Cleverly, reads to him. Photo by Carl Simpson.