UVA third-year Juliana Parra knows how difficult it is to learn English.

She’s the granddaughter of immigrants from Colombia, and grew up as her parents and grandparents learned the complex language so many can take for granted. 

“My parents and grandparents worked so hard to learn English so that my sister, my cousins, and I could have amazing lives in the U.S.,” Juliana recalls. She feels fortunate to be fluent in both English and Spanish, and came to UVA knowing she wanted to help Spanish-speakers gain confidence and skills in the English language.  

 “I am forever grateful for their perseverance,” Juliana says of her parents and grandparents dedication after immigrating from Colombia. “In a way, the volunteering I do is my way to give back.” 

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“I am forever grateful for [my parents’] perseverance… The volunteering I do is my way to give back.”

— Juliana Parra, UVA third-year and Latinx and Migrant Aid volunteer

 Juliana learned about Madison House during her first year, and has been volunteering ever since. Beginning as a volunteer in the Youth Mentoring program, Juliana’s passion for education soon compelled her to join both the Latinx and Migrant Aid and Cavs in the Classroom programs. She’s a double major in the UVA Curry School of Education’s Youth and Social Innovation program, and the College of Arts and Science’s American studies program with a focus on race and ethnicity.  

She spends time every week volunteering at Charlottesville’s Red Hill Elementary and Johnson Elementary. Madison House’s Latinx and Migrant Aid (LAMA) program at Red Hill paired her with two adults seeking to gain basic English skills — numbers, letter sounds, elementary vocabulary, verb usage, and simple sentences. When Juliana first started tutoring the adult students, she remembers that their confidence levels were low.  

“Most of their friends were studying for the citizenship tests — not practicing how to put verbs into the past tense,” says Juliana. “My biggest task was making sure at the end of every session they believed in themselves a little bit more.” 

Volunteering with these students helped Juliana learn the importance of listening to another person’s story. She says that, for her students, it’s not just about learning English. It’s about encouraging them to believe in and strive toward achieving their dreams. While Juliana says that it’s “rewarding” and “priceless” to witness her students’ faces light up as they form grammatically correct sentences, she realizes that she, too, is growing and learning as an empathetic and empowered individual.  


2017 — 2018 Latinx and Migrant Aid Head Program Director  and Program Directors

2017 — 2018 Latinx and Migrant Aid Head Program Director
and Program Directors

2017 — 2018 Cavs in the Classroom Head Program Director  and Program Directors

2017 — 2018 Cavs in the Classroom Head Program Director
and Program Directors

Latinx and Migrant Aid at-a-glance

Community Partners:

Albemarle Regional Migrant Eduction: Adult Tutoring and Homework Helpers, Iglesia de Palabra Viva, Iglesia Rios de Agua Viva: Cherry Avenue, Sin Barreras

ESTIMATED SERVICE HOURS DURING
2017 — 2018 ACADEMIC YEAR:

1,840 hours of service

economic value of madison house volunteers’ 2017 — 2018 latinx and migrant aid estimated hours:

$49,220

Cavs in the Classroom at-a-glance

community partners:

Agnor Hurt Elementary School, Baker-Butler Elementary School, Budford Middle School, Burnley-Moran Elementary School, Cale Elementary School, Charlottesville Catholic School, Clark Elementary School, Greenbrier Elementary School, Greer Elementary School, Jackson-Via Elementary School, Johnson Elementary School, Peabody School, Stone-Robinson Elementary School, Venable Elementary School

estimated service hours during
2017 — 2018 academic year:

3,034 hours of service

economic value of madison house volunteers’ 2017 — 2018 latinx and migrant aid estimated hours:

$81,159


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“Volunteering with LAMA has strengthened my passion to help the Latin American community.”

“My students have taught me everything from patience to pure joy,” Juliana says. “Volunteering with LAMA has strengthened my passion to help the Latin American community and identify more ways for how I can help make a difference in the future.” 

After she graduates, Juliana wants to work in education policy or reform and to be an advocate for the minority community. She hopes to work with schools and teachers to strengthen their relationships with students and families from different backgrounds, while ensuring these populations receive the attention and help they need — both in and out of the classroom.  

 “I believe every person has an equal opportunity to receive an education,” says Juliana. I do not want anyone thinking he or she cannot simply because of a language barrier.” 

Her advice for other UVA students looking to make a difference in the community? 

 “Find something [you] love to do!” Juliana says. “I love volunteering and LAMA has quickly turned into a time commitment I look forward to every week, and this is a feeling every student deserves to have.”