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Emily Mather
February 11, 2021

Student Leading ESL Childcare Program Reimagines Her Future

Emily Mather ’21, who is majoring in Spanish, re-thought her future when she became the childcare program director of the English as a Second Language (ESL) Program at Berry, training and coordinating a team of volunteers teaching young language learners in the community. With graduation close at hand, Emily envisions a long-term career working with individuals in marginalized and vulnerable communities.

Emily’s initial career goal was to become a Spanish teacher. “I am very passionate about Spanish,” Emily says. “Language learning is so important, because it connects us with other people — across cultures and backgrounds. This feels very central to my life.”

This passion led to tutoring positions with the ESL Program and Berry’s Academic Success Center (ASC) and to a teaching assistantship with Professor of Spanish Julee Tate. Though the assistantship gave Emily valuable experience in a language education setting, she realized a teaching career was not her ideal path.

Free to explore other options, Emily immersed herself in the ESL Program, working closely with Associate Professor of Spanish Julia Barnes, and became the student director of the childcare program at the start of her junior year. When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, she faced the challenge of moving the robust in-person program online. “Undaunted, Emily put together a team and worked to create an online ESL experience for the children which has been gaining traction all semester,” Barnes recalls. “Her dedication to the program and its participants is inspiring. Without her, we would not have a program to offer the children right now.”

Thanks to her ESL experience, Emily is weighing different career directions — from earning a graduate degree in Spanish to participating in a service position with AmeriCorps to teaching English to refugees with a mission group in Arizona. Whatever her first stop after graduation, Emily’s concern for others will shine:  “I know that I want to do something relational, working with people of all ages. I want to welcome those who feel unwelcome; to show compassion to those who might not feel compassion; and to reach out to those who are often overlooked. Being able to do that at Berry has been a massively valuable experience.”

Tate feels confident in Emily’s success, saying, “I have more hope for the future when I think that we are sending Emily out into the world to do all of the wonderful things she’s sure to do!”

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