Thursday night, more than 30 ESOL students gathered at Hope’s Hawthorne Avenue building to celebrate the end of the Summer 2018 program cycle. The three-level program hosted a diverse group of participants two days per week for nine weeks. Students came from countries like Guatemala, Venezuela, Mexico, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic, all of them sharing drive and enthusiasm for learning the English language.
Learning a new language is difficult, and on the last night of class, students took on the challenge of practicing casual English with their classmates in a conversation café. They practiced introducing themselves, talked about the types of clothing they wear for different occasions, and shared the places they prefer to buy food and clothes. This was a capstone activity for the students after they learned English skills related to money, prices, and shopping, as well as some information about the harm caused by U.S. consumerism and the “fast fashion” clothing manufacturing industry in Global South countries. Hope’s ESOL program is unique in its commitment to providing students with opportunities to analyze and critique social systems and structures at the same time that they learn English.
Four compassionate volunteer teachers shared their admiration for the students during the recognition ceremony. Level 2 teacher Sergio Delgado and Level 3 teacher Linda Richter, both children of immigrants themselves, told the group that they could see their own parents in Hope’s ESOL students and they encouraged them to believe in themselves and the efforts they were making for their children and families. Level 1 teacher Sarah Tai, a college student on summer break from University of North Florida, pushed the students to practice all they can, in any way they can. That’s what she had done to learn Spanish. Level 3 teacher Otilia Perricelli, a recent graduate of Auburn University who volunteered at Casa Latina in Alabama, expressed gratitude that she was able to find an organization like Hope supporting immigrants in Central Florida.
At the close of the night, one of the Level 3 students echoed Otilia’s sentiments. Formerly a journalist in his home country, he was unable to pursue this career as an immigrant in the U.S. He knew that learning English would be a first step to achieving something. He had tried to learn more English by watching TV and listening to music, but it wasn’t enough. He needed a teacher who he could ask questions, and he needed others to practice, share and learn with him. At Hope, this is what he found—a community of diverse teachers and learners ready to support each other at each step of the way.
The new cycle of ESOL classes at HCC will begin on Wednesday, September 19, 2018. Registration will be open August 20 to August 30. Email Ivis Rodriguez to register and learn more at [email protected]