English In Action
The women of English In Action. From left to right standing: Angela, Lara, Shinta, Paulina, Manuela and sitting: Rachel, Heather, Susannah.
“A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”Margaret Mead
The Roaring Fork Valley of Colorado is a narrow valley with a string of towns ranging from Aspen to Glenwood and from Rifle to Parachute. The towns of Aspen and Snowmass have reputations as high-end ski towns, but the communities surrounding and sustaining them are complex and nuanced.
Wanting to showcase these foundational communities, we hit on the idea of partnering with a local non-profit by featuring the organization’s staff as our scarf models. It made sense to highlight our valley’s strong philanthropic traditions to newcomers and long-term residents alike while celebrating those who are positively impacting the lives of so many in our beloved community. English In Action is a small, women-led non-profit that is easy to fall in love with.
Behind the Scenes of the Photoshoot
We headed to English In Action headquarters in Basalt a few weeks ago for a formal photoshoot, and it was a pleasure to meet the team. We were met by a lovely group of eight women passionate about building connections, cross-cultural exchange, and empowering the immigrant community. This photoshoot was the first group work event they had participated in since the resurgence of the pandemic, and it was a joy to see them chatting and catching up with each other over coffee and pastries.
To start things off, we displayed all of the scarves to be modeled and had our Founder & Creative Director, Isa Catto, walk the staff through different ways to wear a scarf. Once everyone was matched to a couple of scarves, the photoshoot began. Ted, our resident photographer (and much more), struck up a conversation with each woman as they stepped in front of the white backdrop, making the process fun, open, and engaging.
Falling in Love with Language
We have learned much more about English In Action by working with these incredible women in this photoshoot and further conversations. This organization’s staff comes from all parts of the globe and has various native languages. However, one thing they do have in common is a love of language and its ability to connect and empower people. Heather Hicks Stumpf, English In Action’s Development Director, shared with us her experience: “I first fell in love with language on a trip to Miami with my maternal grandmother in high school. We were in a cab with a driver from Cuba, and my grandmother encouraged me to practice using the Spanish I was learning in school. I remember a feeling of genuine connection by being able to joke and laugh with someone in their native language.” That connection is what English In Action is all about.
English In Action Programs
Through their programs, English In Action connects, empowers, and equips immigrants. These programs include one-on-one tutoring, small groups, community engagement, and digital literacy. Angela Hanley, the Group Programs Tutoring Manager, is particularly excited about one of the newer initiatives, the Digital Literacy Program. When the pandemic broke out in 2020, the English In Action team shifted its focus from tutoring and English classes to include connecting people to financial and health resources. “I don’t think we realized the level of disadvantage some of our students were coming from at that moment, in terms of their challenges to finding information online,” says Angela. “Through the Digital Literacy Initiative, English In Action has provided devices and basic technology skills to students who now can interact with online classes, access important information, and be more involved in the digital community so many of us take for granted,” she continued. Paulina Navas leads this program. She loves “seeing the joy and satisfaction of people progressing as they use new technology and language skills.”
English In Action is also working on a program to include the arts. The Program Coordinator/Match Advisor, Susannah Lickus, shared a bit about a new and exciting project that she is helping foster. “I’m working on a partnership idea with The Art Base in Basalt. We are hoping to put together some bilingual Open Studios as another way for the community to engage in the arts. I studied art in college, concentrating in oil painting, so I’m excited to share this passion with others and create an accessible space for folks to be creative,” says Susannah.
Impact on the Community
There is an abundance of inspiring testimonials from students and families about English In Action’s positive impacts on their lives. They tell stories of transformation, perseverance, determination, and connection. For example, Shinta Damayanti’s first involvement was as a student through one-on-one tutoring and has now become the Office Coordinator/Fundraising Assistant. She shared a portion of her powerful story with us: “English In Action changed my life and a lot more adult immigrants’ lives in this Roaring Fork Valley. I had lost my self-confidence and self-esteem in my first year of moving here. My teacher is not only teaching me English but is empowering me to be a good parent and more engaged with our community.” Stories like Shinta’s are why these programs are essential to building a more integrated and welcoming community that focuses on togetherness and understanding one another.
Naturally, the staff members develop bonds with their students and the families that they assist. Rachel Schmidt, Match Advisor/Marketing Manager, told us about her experience as a volunteer: “I started tutoring in our Open Hours program in 2009 and met my student, Angelica, in 2016. Although the two of us are not meeting regularly to study English right now, we’ve developed a good friendship, and she and her family are important to me.” The relationship between student and tutor goes beyond learning English; it truly fosters a human-to-human connection.
Volunteer with English In Action
Over the years, English In Action has grown from two employees in its earlier days to a current staff of ten employees! It speaks volumes that a number of these employees started as volunteers. Still today, volunteers are a large part of programs at English In Action. There are various ways to volunteer, whether tutoring individuals, participating in small groups, or attending open hours.
English In Action is so special because of the organization’s “willingness to help the immigrant community and always have the doors open to always welcome the students and try their best to meet their needs.”Manuela Cubillos, Program Assistant
Continue Learning About English In Action
To continue learning about this marvelous non-profit, please visit their website here. Also, please follow them on Instagram @englishinaction_colorado and Facebook here. If you would like to donate to English In Action, please follow this link.