Service in a Pandemic: Lizzie Royster, ND AmeriCorps at Su Casa Hispanic Center

Service in a Pandemic: Lizzie Royster, ND AmeriCorps at Su Casa Hispanic Center

In April, Lizzie Royster made room in her schedule to volunteer with the Food for All program to provide residents in rural communities with fresh and healthy food through curbside delivery.

Notre Dame AmeriCorps Members are lay people working to further the educational mission of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, both here and abroad. They serve in 24 cities and in Haiti and number more than 400 people. Their situations, as with most of us, have unexpectedly taken a turn due to the pandemic. Yet their work goes on. Over the next several weeks we’ll highlight some of their stories.

Lizzie Royster serves mainly Hispanic/Latino immigrants who are seeking a better life for themselves and their families through Su Casa Hispanic Center, located in Cincinnati, Ohio. Su Casa provides social, educational, language, employment, and health promotion services.

Su Casa currently serves 140 students. According to Lizzie, “Our students don’t live around the area. Some live as far as West Chester, Ohio, a town about 12 miles north of Reading. We have a large Spanish speaking group, but we also have several Swahili, French, and Arabic speaking students.”

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Lizzie assisted with teaching language classes, childcare, and greeting students who came to class. Since in-person services were canceled, Lizzie has been in contact with the students via the phone while her team has been getting ready to launch an online English Language program. All 18 volunteer teachers will be having classes online using Google Meet because the platform is easy for students to access on their mobile phones. To maintain some regularity, they will be using a similar schedule as their in-person classes: morning and evening classes. They are also using the same books the students already have.

“One of the challenges our students have is navigating home-schooling for their children. When the parents haven’t mastered English well, it’s hard to communicate with the teachers. Some of their children also receive tutoring from AMIS (Academy of Multilingual Immersion Studies) and Hartwell Elementary School.” said Lizzie.

Because of the pandemic, Catholic Charities received cleaning supplies donations from P & G, and diapering supplies and furniture from Healthy Moms and Babes, a local non-profit organization. Su Casa has become a channel to get these donations into the community they serve.

“I love this shift of responsibilities,” said Lizzie. “I was able to work with the team and help them make big decisions. This entire experience has also opened my eyes. I found that teaching adults is rewarding, I never thought I would love doing that, but I did. I always look forward to hearing stories from the students whenever they came into class.”

Lizzie appreciates knowing the Sisters and their work through this first year of service. She has decided to stay at Su Casa for her second year of AmeriCorps adventure.