Intercambio: Raising Cultural Awareness
It’s the last day of class and excited, nervous energy wafts through the air as students prepare for a round of “speed- dating” style conversation. It’s an opportunity for these students, who are immigrant, adult learners, to practice their English-speaking skills with multiple volunteers. They exchange stories about their children, where they work and their aspirations.
But there is something bigger at play than just practicing English. The students are learning to overcome their fears and gaining confidence as they interact in a personal way with Americans, many for the first time. Intercambio offers a safe space with willing volunteers.
On the surface Intercambio, a Boulder-based nonprofit leading the class, provides affordable English language education and resources for immigrants. But Intercambio is intent on a much bigger goal – connecting people from different cultural backgrounds that rarely interact, and doing so in a warm, welcoming environment.
“Each year in Boulder County more than 400 trained volunteers to teach English to 1,200 adult immigrants,” said executive director Lee Shainis. “Immigrants in our program see huge life changes. More than 40 percent earn more money at their jobs, and the high school graduation rates of their kids is, on average, 13 percent higher than their peers.”
Intercambio has participated in Colorado Gives Day for several years and the giving day has had a remarkable impact on reaching new donors, according to Shainis. “There is no better way to connect your organization with new donors than through Colorado Gives Day,” he said. “Community First Foundation has created an exciting and seamless way for people to give.”