Excitement rippled through the throng of more than 60 participants and their families gathered at Spring Woods Middle School in Houston, Texas, for the adult graduation of the Daily Dose program. Daily Dose is an English as a Second Language program sponsored by a collaboration between Spring Branch Independent School District and the Church. Each graduate received certificates from Daily Dose and from Afterschool Centers for Education at the school.
Scott E. Baldwin, ACE program coordinator at SWMS shared what an important milestone this was. “Some of the parents got new clothing for the ceremony. They never have received a certificate in their life for anything. They feel that this is something very special,” Mr. Baldwin said.
Flanked by their Mormon missionary teachers, representatives of each class shared in English what they had learned. “It’s crazy to see how well they can speak now,” said Elder Matteo Pesci, a missionary from Las Vegas, Nevada. “The majority of people speak Spanish, but we have people who speak Arabic and Vietnamese, it can get pretty diverse. We’ve seen the people get to know us and then the questions just flow,” Elder Pesci added.
Rocio Martinez has had one year of classes and has children in elementary and high school. “It has helped with conversation with my boss. It is good to be with others because you learn from other people. The missionaries are patient and do a good job. The English helps sometimes to understand the homework,” Mr. Martinez said.
According to its website, since 2001 Daily Dose has provided a simple and effective method for community-based, faith-based and private industry organizations to develop English language skills, self-confidence and everyday survival skills.
The Daily Dose program consists of 42 practical lessons such as filling out paperwork, and visits to restaurants and supermarkets. The adults gather in huddles around posters or pictures from the lesson and engage in activities that help them learn the concepts. The missionaries, who receive training in implementing the program, also teach in schools, libraries, community centers, meetinghouses, and adult reading centers throughout the greater Houston area.
Trina Morford, a member of the Memorial Ward of the Richmond Texas Stake and the passionate force behind the Houston area Daily Dose learning system, is hopeful that other cities may use this as a model. Sister Morford has been called as a Church service missionary to facilitate and coordinate the growing program. The program is near and dear to her heart as she experienced what parents who speak languages other than English experience. When her daughter enrolled in a dual language program, Sister Morford could not understand Spanish and was unable to help her daughter. “The first year I asked parents, ‘Why do you want to learn English?’ At first it was to help get a job. This year across the board parents responded it was to help their children in school,” Sister Morford said.
“The gasoline that runs this program is faith,” she said. She tells of every single roadblock being overcome through the prayer of faith. Even her involvement in the program in Houston was divinely orchestrated. “I walked into a parent advisory committee meeting just at the moment when somebody asked, ‘Does anyone know where to find the Mormon missionaries’ (to help with Daily Dose)’.
“President Mark Mortensen of the Texas Houston Mission and President Aaron Hall of the Texas Houston South Mission have been incredibly flexible to be able to work around the schedules and provide as many missionaries as we possibly can,” Sister Morford added.
At Spring Woods Middle School, Daily Dose has transformed to fit the needs of the community. Dr. Kaye Williams, school principal, shared that their campus Daily Dose started with refugee parents from Sudan, Ethiopia and Burundi. As they were able to get jobs they were not able to attend classes, but there was still need for the practical language lessons offered by Daily Dose in their families. There are also refugee children who witnessed the death of their parents in the camps before coming to the United States. “We absolutely needed other people to come in and help service the kids because they are from all walks of life, different experiences. Daily Dose has been a life saver. Daily Dose has filled the void that we really needed,” Dr. Williams said.
Leticia Verdinez, Texas ACE Family Engagement Specialist for school district noted, “The missionaries, because of their commitment and love for being part of the community, have really strengthened the classes and our parent community. They feel unity and have bonded not only with the missionaries but among themselves. They learned about the missionaries who leave everything behind and come and do service for the community. This is something our parents were not familiar with. They learned the importance of volunteering, and community service,” she said. Refugee children whose parents may have been traditional enemies in their native lands have now become friends in these classrooms.
Dr. Williams had no trepidation about missionaries working with children instead of parents. “I was happy — very, very excited. It has been a better experience than I expected because when you walk by you see the kids and the missionaries together — everyone is having a good time and learning from one another,” she said.
Sister Morford added, “What we are doing in this school, having students do Daily Dose is unique in the country.”