Alyssa Wagner

Program Director, El Puente Education Center

As the number of bilingual households continue to rise in Dayton, the necessity to assist bilingual children with their schoolwork has also increased. Fortunately, Alyssa Wagner and her coworkers at El Puente Education Center have recognized the need to build this bridge for children by helping students in kindergarten through sixth grade succeed in their schoolwork.

My Story:  

“While I was a student at the University of Dayton, I participated in an immersion trip to the Dominican Republic.  I fell in love with the culture, the people, and the language.  After graduation, I spent two years living on the island, learning more about the culture, the people, and the language. Dominicans in general are very hospitable and generous, and because of the welcome I received, I was able to dive deeper, learn more about the culture, and become integrated into the local community.

Once I returned to the United States, I had the tools to be able to reach out and help Latino immigrants with the process of incorporation into our community, just as many Dominicans had helped me in the process of integration and cultural learning while I was there.”

The Importance of Being a Welcoming and Inclusive Community:

“As the Program Director of El Puente Education Center, the majority of students I work with are from Latino families, where the language spoken at home is mostly Spanish. At El Puente, we help students with their homework, specifically their English reading and writing skills. Our program helps our bilingual students to keep working at grade level in their classes.

It’s so important that our community be welcoming and inclusive so that a foundation of trust and understanding can be established between us and our recently arrived neighbors. We have students from Wright State University and the University of Dayton who volunteer their time each year to help students with their schoolwork. As these college students assist El Puente students, they are unknowingly creating an environment that produces an upward spiral of warmth and welcome from both cultures that encourages positive relationships.”

The Benefits of Welcoming our New Community Members:

“All the tamales I receive from our generous families!

Putting aside the fantastic food, working with parents who are so dedicated to their children’s education has been one of the most rewarding aspects of what I do.  Many families come to the United States with the hopes that their children will obtain a better education, and it’s almost uncommon to see such dedication to education today. The warmth in Latino culture that permeates our program has also become one of the best aspects of my career.

Each day, I have the opportunity to work with little ones and with the enthusiastic high school and college students who serve as our tutors. These students want to make a difference and are highly motivated, and being able to be a part of this process and work with individuals that help these students’ dreams to advance is a very fulfilling part of my career.”

Thoughts on Welcome Dayton:

“Welcome Dayton and El Puente share similar visions on the future of our new residents.

Welcome Dayton has common goals. They have shared information about El Puente and have even directed new families to our center. They have launched many initiatives that support immigrant families, and by proxy, our whole community. They create opportunities for many new residents, which allow people who come with strong dreams and entrepreneurial skills to create jobs, make those dreams a reality, and make Dayton a better community for all of us.”