University City: Spanish Flows Freely at the Free Library

Dr. Diane Adler shows Michael Whitworth how to access the online education program as a student watches.

Elementary school children, still wearing their uniforms from various West Philadelphia schools, jittered about as they waited for their free, after-school Spanish class to begin.

Friends of Walnut Street West Library, a volunteer organization dedicated to improving the services at the Free Library branch located on the corner of 40th and Walnut streets, has helped engineer a program targeted at providing inner-city children with the option to learn a new language.

Dr. Diane Adler shows Michael Whitworth how to access the online education program as a student watches.
Dr. Diane Adler shows volunteer Michael Whitworth how to access the online education program.

Dr. Diane Adler, vice president of Friends of Walnut Street West Library, said the program started two years ago. She said there was a lack of foreign languages being taught in school and thought creating a program would be beneficial for the community.

“We did a pilot to see if there was interest [in the community] and found that there was significant interest,” Adler said.

Friends of Walnut Street West Library was able to forge a partnership with Drexel University; students from the college volunteer to tutor the children in Spanish once a week in eight week increments. The tutors work with up to three children in first to fourth grade for 45 minutes.

Asia Carter, a Drexel student volunteer, said she has seen significant improvement in the children’s abilities over time.

“Teaching basic Spanish helps me freshen up on my own Spanish,” Carter added.

The children gossiped and munched on pretzel rods provided by the Friends after the session was completed.