Tutor English with SWAP

Teach English to an immigrant employee at CU, on campus.

He had lived an enormous life. A monk, orphaned at age 9, he had survived persecution and refugee camps. I was reminded that someone else has a story, too.

I started volunteering for the Student Worker Alliance Program (SWAP) last September. I sat down for my first lesson with my student, a CU maintenance employee. I asked him where he was born and how he had come to live in the United States. He smiled. Through his English, which was fragmented and earnest, he told me that he was born in Laos in 1966. When he was nine-years-old his mother passed away, and he was sent to a temple in Borkeo, Laos.

For three months, and then for thirteen years after he became a monk, he rose at dawn to learn Buddhist law and silence. “But then my life changed,” he said, when he and others were driven into Taiwanese refugee camps in 1988. He was 22 then. He had an aunt in Denver, and was able to apply for a program in his refugee camp to travel to the United States, where he studied English for several months and then started to work in a factory. In 1966 he became a U.S. citizen and traveled to China where he met Yi, the woman he married in 1999.

“We are a happy family,” he said. He wakes up at 3:15AM every morning and comes to campus and serves as a custodian. Three days a week, he takes his kids to the library for homework help. He wants to be the one to be able to help them one day. He tells them to study hard so that they can come to a university like CU.

In a way, it was like meeting anybody else on campus, another person with a name and a story.

We think to ourselves that we’ll go out into the world and make a difference. Maybe it’s easier, because it’s remote and we aren’t tangled in it. And we forget what we can do here.

Help bridge the gaps in CU's communities. Build relationships with the employees that work in the dining halls, the rec center, residence halls, and other facilities on campus. Share a common learning and cultural experience. Join SWAP.

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Be one of our new student volunteers, providing free one-on-one classes to immigrant employees, twice a week.


The time commitment:

A one-time, four hour training. One hour classes, twice a week for the rest of the semester.

Training Dates (you have to come to two sessions, either Mon/Wed or Tues/Thurs):

September 15th and 17th (Monday and Wednesday)



September 23rd and 25th (Tuesday and Thursday)


HUMN 250

Email us at swapv@colorado.edu

Come meet us in UMC Room 137