CHILDREN - AND TEACHERS - LEARNING: Megan Meyer, left, and Nicole Hoene read “Hello Ocean” to a group of bilingual children at La Casa Amiga. The two Hanover College students volunteer at the local Hispanic center. During bilingual story hour, college students read a children’s book out loud in both English and Spanish. (Staff photo by Steve Dickerson/sdickerson@madisoncourier.com)
CHILDREN - AND TEACHERS - LEARNING: Megan Meyer, left, and Nicole Hoene read “Hello Ocean” to a group of bilingual children at La Casa Amiga. The two Hanover College students volunteer at the local Hispanic center. During bilingual story hour, college students read a children’s book out loud in both English and Spanish. (Staff photo by Steve Dickerson/sdickerson@madisoncourier.com)
For more than a decade, Shirley Kloepfer has been teaching English at La Casa Amiga, an organization that helps the area's Hispanic residents become active participants in the community.

Kloepfer isn't alone in her efforts. Hanover College has been sending college students enrolled in Spanish courses to help children with their homework and even read books to them.

Payton Hickerson is a freshman enrolled in Spanish 218. She spent an afternoon this week at La Casa Amiga helping out.

"I had a lot of fun with it," Hickerson said. "Even though there was a lot going on around us that was spoken in Spanish, I felt really welcomed there. All the children were extremely excited to be able to talk to us."

Hickerson's classmate, Mariah Hutchinson, said that she had a similar experience.

"They instantly loved us," Hutchinson said.

The two freshmen read "The Giving Tree" to the children during the bilingual story hour. Each week, volunteers read a story to the children in English and then Spanish, to help them learn. After the story, everyone makes a craft that goes along with the story.

For "The Giving Tree," Hutchinson and Hickerson made thank you cards with the children and told them that they needed to give them to people who had given them something, like the tree had done in the book.

"I had three kids come and give me a card," Hutchinson said. "It was really great. The kids were sweet."

Kloepfer said that, over the years, the college students have been a big help to her.

"They've been great. Most of them have been really great," Kloepfer said. "They're usually very prepared and they bring a lot to the kids."

Hutchinson and Hickerson said that they'd both like to volunteer at La Casa Amiga again and have service learning as part of a class curriculum.

Hutchinson said that being immersed in the language the way she was helped her improve her Spanish.

"I think it's probably the best way to learn," she said.