JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas –
Spc. David Ortiz, was a student in the Medical Education and Training Campus Pharmacy Technician program. Born in San Lorenzo, Puerto Rico, Ortiz completed high school, and earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. He eventually joined the Army. Because he already completed his bachelor’s degree, Ortiz was advanced to specialist upon enlisting.
He completed recruit training and was immediately sent to the Defense Language Institute (DLI) at Lackland Air Force Base before reporting to METC in order to enhance his command of the English language.
“DLI was a gift from the Army, but it was not an experience that prepared me to receive instruction in English,” Ortiz said. “Todos creen que porque somos cuidadanos Americanos de Puerto Rico, hemos apprendido ingles y lo hablamos como todo el mundo, y simplemente no es verdad” [Everybody believes that because we are American citizens from Puerto Rico, we were taught to speak English like everybody else, and it is just not true].
“Truthfully, the only time I was taught in English was during English class, and the instructor taught us English - while speaking Spanish! In Puerto Rico, we are primarily taught in “Spanglish” – very heavy on the ‘Span,’ not a lot in the ‘glish,’ Ortiz added.” Consequently, many Puerto Rican and other Spanish-speaking students struggle almost immediately upon arriving at the METC for training. The primary issue is that they do not have a sound command of the English language and immediately begin to struggle or fail outright.
Ortiz failed his first test, but passed his re-test with a 76. Mr. Dan Dulak, one of Ortiz’s pharmacy program instructors, immediately recommended that he be seen by Mr. Everett Ybarra at the Faculty, Staff, and Student Development (FSSD) section for help.
“You can tell he is intelligent and a hard worker who was really troubled when he failed,” said Dulak. “This Soldier really cares and that makes a big difference. We recognized the issue and immediately requested help from FSSD because we know we need to get him academic assistance as soon as possible if he is going to have a chance to make it.”
Ortiz was taught Mr. Y’s Study System, a program that helps students learn at the pace of the instruction. “Not all students need to use all the tools we teach,” stated Mr. Lankla Ivory, a FSSD staff member. “Many times the student only has to use one or two of our tools, but they may need to make an adjustment in order to use the tools more effectively. It’s really as simple as that.”
Ivory continued, “Our job is to figure out which tools will be most effective for each student so that they can be more prepared to achieve success in their academic studies here at METC.”
Ybarra, who created Mr. Y’s Study System and manages the one-on-one academic intervention program personally, counsels all ESL learners.
“Through our one-on-one academic intervention program, we have the time to assess each student and figure out what they need, then give it to them,” Ybarra explained. “We always encourage faculty to request a one-on-one academic intervention as quickly as possible once they determine that language may be an issue for their students.”
“Fortunately,” he added, “the majority of our students are able to get back on track and on their way to graduation.”
To request help for an ESL or any METC student contact FSSD at (210) 808-1988.