Campus & Community

Making friends, building dreams

3 min read

Harvard students mentor young immigrants at ESL summer camp

“Broadway?” Taina Suazo said when the Red Line conductor called out the stop. “That’s my dream.” To sing, dance, or direct? “All of it,” she said. “I want to do all of it.”

Suazo, 9, was on a field trip with Harvard’s Boston Refugee Youth Enrichment (BRYE) summer camp. The seven-week program for refugee and immigrant 6- to 13-year-olds now living in Dorchester gave the children morning ESL classes at the Richard J. Murphy School, and afternoon field trips to places such as the Water Country theme park, the Mary Baker Eddy Library, and the harbor islands.

College and high school students, among them camp director Thang Diep of Harvard, led the Phillips Brooks House Association program.

“Many of these campers immigrated to the U.S. around the same age I did,” Diep said, a College junior. “They remind me how difficult it was learning English and trying to keep my Vietnamese roots at the same time. This is why BRYE means so much to me. It is so rewarding to work with young people who remind you so much of yourself and your experiences.”

A mother packs off her daughter to the Murphy School in Dorchester for the first day of camp.
Kevin Nguyen, 9, says goodbye to his mother after boarding the Harvard shuttle. Dennis Pena is at the wheel.
Willy Nguyen, 6, dances in the aisle.
BRYE directors Thang Diep and Aileen Navarrete, both Harvard juniors, introduce themselves to students on the first day of camp.
BRYE director Sophie Eakins, a Wellesley student, greets camper Thanh Nguyen.
Counselor Steven Espinoza ’20 leads a group on a field trip to the Boston Children’s Museum.
Steven Espinoza counts heads inside the museum.
Khang Vu (left) and Nhon Nguyen work together on an interactive exhibit.
A pulley exhibit captures the attention of Shifau Oyemala (from left), Johnathan Nguyen, Jordan Nguyen, Reezahnny Veiga-Rodrigues, Ha Thanh Dang, and Austin Aguilar.
Angelo Cruz (center) makes new friends while playing a game.
Rebecca Hernandez ’19 guides campers back to Murphy School. Hernandez said it was on a field trip to Georges Island that she realized her group had united. “On Day 1, I didn’t think it would happen, and it did,” said the Texas native who moved to the U.S. from Mexico at age 6. She recalled that her childhood summers at camp helped her advance at school. She hopes to teach high school when she graduates from Harvard.
At the bus stop, Kevin Nguyen translates information about the BRYE program for Khang Nguyen’s grandmother.
Aileen Navarrete walks 8-year-old Thao Nguyen home from the bus stop. “I don’t like the outside of my house,” Thao said. “I do,” replied Navarrete. “It’s the color of my coat.”
Steven Espinoza helps students decide whether to “dab” left or right for the camp’s final show.
Thang Diep arm wrestles Thao Nguyen while Phat Nguyen looks on.
Ifedayo Famojuro ’19 mentors Javier Mariano, 11.
Jeffrey Peilco, 8, makes sure not to get wet while using a bubble kit that Kerry McGowan (left), Phillips Brooks House Association program director, made for the campers.
Trinh Bui (left) and Taina Suazo, both 9, play with bubbles.
Students react to photos of themselves in a gallery that Thang Diep created. Parents were invited to the final show at the Vietnamese American Community Center in Dorchester.
Lia Michelle Campusano (from left), Ha Thanh Dang, Shifau Oyemala, Mia Werner, Reezahnny Veiga-Rodrigues, Johanot Pierre, and Khoa Ho perform a song and dance at the final show.