'Kind of tough': Some families struggle with language barriers in virtual learning

ORANGE COUNTY, N.C. (WTVD) -- Beatriz Vazquez helps her children with virtual learning the best she can.

But Vazquez, whose first language is Spanish, has faced some language barriers. And she's not alone.

"It was very hard for Latino families," Vazquez said. "It was very complicated to use the technology, to speak English, to write English. We don't know how to read English."

Vazquez and her husband have five children. Three go to elementary schools in the Orange County School District and have been learning virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Vazquez said virtual learning can be challenging for those who do understand English and that for those who don't, it's even more difficult.

Vazquez enrolled her children in El Centro Hispano's tutoring program, including 9-year-old Angel.

"Virtual learning has been kind of tough," Angel said. "We're not really doing that much stuff on paper. We're mostly doing it on computer."

Emily Metzloff, the education department manager for the nonprofit El Centro Hispano, said they've expanded their tutoring program.

"We now have 100-plus volunteers that volunteer their time every week and are paired with students and are meeting with them once a week to just kind of get them the individual feedback and support that they need to kind of help keep them engaged," Metzloff said.

Metzloff said they found that some Latino students weren't logging on for online classes during the pandemic so they started going out to communities to find out what was happening and to help students and their parents.

"We became aware of certain neighborhoods where there are very high populations not attending school, just not even at all," she said. "Forty-plus days or there's some families that haven't been able to log in, even a year into this."

"A lot of Latino families already feel a little bit alienated from the schools, whether that's because they feel like it's hard for them to communicate because of language barriers or they've just not felt included in the schools," Metzloff said. "So you have those two things compounding and the effects were pretty severe."

Vazquez started volunteering for those efforts, going into communities and talking to parents. She also volunteered with tutoring to assist other Latino families.

"I help a lot of moms and I feel so glad to do that," said Vazquez, who is keeping her children learning remotely.

If you're interested in utilizing El Centro Hispano's tutoring program, you can text the names and ages of the students here: (919) 697-8073

The organization is also seeking volunteers.

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