Alum motivated to ARISE, help less fortunate

Jul 11, 2013
  • group circleThe opportunity to serve as the director and curriculum writer of the ARISE Summer Reading Program …
  • Sharing the experience with current Heidelberg students …
  • Teaching English to adults and children in the impoverished colonias…
  • Organizing Immigration Reform Advocacy events …


Alumnus Nathan Prunty, ’08, recently served as a chaperone for a group of Heidelberg students who traveled to the Texas-Mexico border as part of the ARISE Summer Youth Program, the culmination of Dr. Cindy Lepeley’s spring semester border class. The class examines the societal, political and economic realities of those who live on the U.S.-Mexico border, specifically, the Rio Grande Valley.

Nathan’s first trip in 2007 changed his life. After volunteering for a week, he was inspired to learn Spanish. He spent a semester abroad n Mexico, studying and volunteering at an enrichment program for impoverished children. He taught English to adults in Costa Rica and Peru for a year, returned home to teach ESL and migrant school. He spent the next two years in Columbus, working at an inner-city school as a bilingual ESL assistant and completing his master’s degree.

Although he had graduated from Heidelberg, ARISE and the border trip were never far from his heart and mind. He’s been on the trip several times – twice while he was a student at the Berg and as a chaperone ever since. His devotion to the program and his love for the communities and individuals it serves has turned into a full-time teaching position. This fall, Nathan will return to South Texas to teach the children of the region, many of whom he and the Heidelberg group worked with on the recent border trip.

Nathan explains that ARISE – A Resource in Serving Equality – is a grassroots, non-profit organization that serves low-income Mexican immigrant families through empowering educational programs. Student volunteers, he says, help with learning activities, preparing crafts and playing games with the children from the local communities.

This year, Heidelberg students at the ARISE Las Milpas Center also assisted with the summer reading program, which he developed. “Nathan is all about serving the community and making a difference,” says Lepeley. “He has a big heart for people and I am so proud of him.”

ARISE offers its summer reading program at all three community centers. “The aim is to provide a quality academic program to children who may have little access to books and/or other resources,” Nathan says. ARISE also aspires to prevent “summer reading loss,” which affects many children during their summer vacation from school.

“Sessions in the reading program focus on literacy in English, but other academic areas are integrated into the curriculum, including enrichment activities in math, social studies, science and emotional intelligence,” he says. “Each session includes a whole group lesson, small group activities and time for individual reading and journal writing.”

An offshoot of his work with ARISE, Nathan has had the opportunity to participate in the pro-immigration reform movement on behalf of immigrant families in some of the poorest colonias, or neighborhoods, in the U.S.

rallyIn February, he traveled to Washington, D.C., with other community organizers to discuss the issue and propose legislation with congressmen. He also participated in a rally in Austin, the capital of Texas. “The experience was incredibly motivating and I felt energized by the countless others who shared my passion and drive,” he says.

Earlier this summer, Nathan had the “incredible opportunity” to again serve as the director and curriculum writer of the reading program. “Sharing the experience with current Heidelberg students made it even more rewarding,” he says.

After officially joining the ARISE staff last January, Nathan has worked on a number of projects, including teaching English to adults and children, organizing immigration reform advocacy events and developing the curriculum for ARISE’s programs. “The summer reading program was an incredible success, impacting 95 children from the low-income immigrant communities we serve,” he says. “It was an honor to be part of the program.”

If that’s the case, he’s even more excited to be able to share the experience with youth from home and to work full time with ARISE beginning in September.