Excitement rippled through the throng of more than 60 participants and families gathered at Spring Woods Middle School (SWMS) May 27, 2016 in Houston, Texas for the adult graduation of the Daily Dose program. Daily Dose is an ESL, English as a Second Language program sponsored by a collaboration between Spring Branch Independent School District (SBISD) and The Church. Each graduate received certificates from Daily Dose and from Afterschool Centers for Education (ACE).
Scott E. Baldwin, ACE Program Coordinator at SWMS shared what an important milestone this was. “Some of the parents got new clothing for the ceremony. They never have received a certificate in their life for anything. They feel that this is something very special,” Baldwin said.
Flanked by their Mormon Missionary teachers, representatives of each class shared in English what they had learned. “It’s crazy to see how well they can speak now,” said Elder Matteo Pesci, a missionary from Las Vegas, Nevada. “The majority of people speak Spanish, but we have people who speak Arabic and Vietnamese, it can get pretty diverse. We’ve seen the people get to know us and then the questions just flow!” Pesci added.
Rocio Martinez has had one year of classes and has children in elementary and high school. “It has helped with conversation with my boss. It is good to be with others because you learn from other people. The missionaries are patient and do a good job. The English helps sometimes to understand the homework,” Martinez said.
According to its website, Daily Dose has provided a simple and effective method for community-based, faith-based and private industry organizations to develop English language skills, self-confidence and everyday survival skills since 2001.
The Daily Dose program consists of 42 practical lessons such as filling out paperwork, visits to restaurants and supermarkets. The adults gather in huddles around posters or pictures from the lesson and engage in activities that help them learn the concepts. The missionaries, who receive training in implementing the program, also teach in schools, libraries, community centers, meetinghouses, and adult reading centers throughout the greater Houston area.
Trina Morford, a member of the Memorial Ward of the Richmond Texas Stake, and the passionate force behind the Houston area Daily Dose learning system, is hopeful that other cities may use this as a model. Morford has now been called as a Church Service Missionary to facilitate and coordinate the growing program. The program is near and dear to her heart as she experienced what parents who speak languages other than English experience. When her daughter enrolled in a dual language program, Morford could not understand Spanish and was unable to help her daughter. “The first year I asked parents ‘why do you want to learn English’? At first it was to help get a job. This year across the board parents responded it was to help their children in school,” Morford said.
“The gasoline that runs this program is faith,” Morford said. She tells of every single roadblock being opened through the prayer of faith. Even her involvement in the program in Houston was divinely orchestrated. “I walked into a Parent Advisory Committee meeting just at the moment when somebody asked ‘Does anyone know where to find the Mormon missionaries?’ (to help with Daily Dose).
“President Mark Mortensen of the Houston Mission and President Aaron Hall of the Houston South Mission have been incredibly flexible to be able to work around the schedules and provide as many missionaries as we possibly can,” Morford added.
During the ceremony, Jan Chappell, Houston Director of Public Affairs, praised the courage, hard work and example of the graduates. “One of the best ways to practice what you have learned is to teach it to someone else. There is a wonderful feeling when people care about each other and share what they know to help each other,” Chappell concluded.
This sentiment was also expressed by Leticia Verdinez, Texas ACE Family Engagement Specialist for SBISD. “The missionaries, because of their commitment and love for being part of the community, have really strengthened the classes and our parent community. They feel unity and have bonded not only with the missionaries but among themselves. They learned about the missionaries who leave everything behind and come and do service for the community. This is something our parents were not familiar with. They learned the importance of volunteering, and community service,” Verdinez said.
Elder Daniel W. Jones, Area Seventy, added a revelatory admonition. “One of the biggest challenges that will face our Hispanic Saints who come here is that often the parents who bring their children here feel uncomfortable in speaking English, and choose to speak to their children in Spanish in the home. But those children, in a desire to assimilate to the culture that they now live in, quickly identify with friends and see themselves as Americans, rather than from their family’s country of origin. They seek to, and readily learn, to speak English and become comfortably bi-lingual. Unfortunately, when those children grow up and marry, they often do not pass their Spanish heritage to their children. I worry that those great saints who came to this country to find better opportunities for their children, will find that they cannot speak to their grandchildren and share the important aspects of their family heritage, experiences, values, and testimonies with their own grandchildren. The best thing that we can do is help all of our expatriate members learn English so that they can fulfill the great duty that they have to pass on to their posterity the most important values that they believe in and love.