Betsy Brennan helps refugees put it in drive

December 17, 2011
Author: Shad Engkilterra | Salt Lake City Community Activism Examiner

Betsy Brennan, 54, majored in French at Hamilton College and got her Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) Certificate from the University of Utah.

Her love of languages and cultures has led her to want to help those who come to the United States learn English.  She has volunteered at the Guadalupe and HorizonteSchools and started volunteering at the English Skills Learning Center in the August of 2008 helping refugees learn English.

“You develop relationships with these people, and they feel like close friends,” says Brennan, “and they are.”

Brennan has been working with the program in the LDS Humanitarian Center helping refugees to learn English and get their driver’s licenses.

Students at the Humanitarian Center work for four hours and get four hours of English training every day.  Three hours are in a large group and the one hour is in a small group where students have their choice of classes – driver’s education, citizenship, or computer training.

Brennan has helped to develop the curriculum for the Driver’s Education training.  Students go over the manual, answer a series of questions and use toy cars as models to show what they have learned.

“The vocabulary is so immense that they need help figuring out the words,” says Brennan.  “It’s just the vocabulary that they really need.”

Brennan has three children – two boys and a girl.  She says that she wanted to do something to help refugees when she was younger, but she had little children at home.  When she finally had the time, she looked at her skills set to see what she could do.

“I can help them with their English,” she says.

Brennan would love to see a program developed that allowed the mothers and their children to learn together.

“If these refugees who have so little English could go to Kindergarten, they could pick up their ABCs,” says Brennan.  “It would be fun to help them bridge the gap and be able to be with their children.”