This Student Is Tapping An Underused Source for Language Lessons: Refugees

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Over breakfast, 21-year-old Elise Shea, a sophomore majoring in international studies at Vassar College, often flips through the pages of the New York Times. The articles she has read about the recent refugee crisis and the images of refugees falling out of wooden boats struck a chord. Her solution: Speak to Me, a digital language-learning platform that lets refugee tutors teach foreign language skills to college students and receive a payout of about $5 per 30 minutes for each session. She thought it could be an effective way to “rethink the direction of humanitarian aid” while helping with the creation of “valuable transnational relationships.”

Raised in Indianapolis, Shea took a gap year between high school and college to perform in a professional ballet company, the Arts Ballet Theatre of Florida — fulfilling her dream to dance professionally before committing to her academic studies. While working in a multilingual setting, she began to study Spanish, and continued her 13 years of French language studies. When Shea’s not learning a language, reading or dancing, she enjoys traveling. Some of her most memorable experiences include medical-mission trips to Haiti and a visit to a refugee camp in Greece.

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