When Is It a Good Thing to Cancel a Class?

Jose Rayas – Valley Ridge Ministries

Over the years we have been here in Socorro/Montana Vista, we have seen programs cancelled due to low or decreasing enrollment. In part one has to admit that interest and benefits may be no longer suitable for the maturity level of the community. So when is it a good thing to cancel a class?

At Valley Ridge we have been holding ESL classes at the church since early September of last year. And we at the beginning had a group of approximately 20 students. At the end of March, the students themselves were talking about cancelling the class. But it was a good thing. Since the class started, 8 students secured gainful employment, and 4 started studying at the local community college in the spring semester. This leaves us with 8 students, all of whom have the desire to continue, but are also considering further studies, whether it be obtaining a GED, or attending Community College.

Of those who have exited the program, one stands out because of his vision to give back to the community.

Alejandro began the ESL class over a year ago. He was depressed, couldn’t get a job and in general, felt useless. He was encouraged to see God’s wisdom in bringing him to class and making good use of his time. First, he found a part time job at a temporary agency. Upon learning about his abilities, we worked with him to sharpen his skills.

At the present time, Alejandro has been working full time. And in addition to this, he has been giving volunteer time (5 hours per week) as a tutor at San Jacinto Community Center.

But the story does not stop there. Alejandro has made a conscious effort to be an example to the community of what can be accomplished when several people and programs can work together. We hope to see those he tutors as future tutors and leaders in the community.

New Life Community Center

Rick Droog – Siouxland Deaconal Conference

Through God’s bountiful blessings, Starfish Ministries has found wonderful space to lease for use as a community center for the KaRen refugee community on the east side of St. Paul.

Gustavus Adolphus Lutheran Church at the corner of Arcade Street and Larpenteur Avenue has space available which had been used by a school for the deaf. As a January 1, we are leasing three classrooms and an office.

Beginning the first Tuesday in January, tutoring of KaRen children was moved from Faith CRC in New Brighton to the new location. The space is well suited for this use and all are pleased with the change.

Then, in February, Chao Khang and the KaRen youth group began using other space at Gustavus Adoplphus. They have agreed to allow the youth group to use their youth space, called “The Fish Market” and the gym on Friday evenings.

On Saturday, February 6, adults from Grace CRC and Faith CRC worked with the KaRen youth to paint the new space and do some other sprucing up. It’s beginning to look pretty good.

Preliminary plans are being made to move ESL classes from the University Avenue location of Hmong American Partnership to the NLCC. There may be new opportunities for volunteers to help tutor the students and perhaps provide childcare for the infants and toddlers of day students.

Pastor Phonh Sinbondit is also surveying the New Life CRC congregation to see what days and times it would work to have volunteers available to help with mail and forms. This is another potential volunteer opportunity.

MIKA’s ESL at Maple

We are pleased to announce that the English as a Second Language (ESL) program at Maple has wrapped up for this session. Students were glad to finish the course, but sad that won’t be meeting every Wednesday during the summer.  Teachers, Leanna and Jane expressed that they were really glad with this year’s students. They always came eager to learn despite the fact that some of them came straight from work and were tired.

During the last day of class, students reviewed what they had learned, had some fun and received a certificate of participation in the 2009 and 2010 program.

The ESL program at Maple was a success and we would like to say thank you to both students and teacher who made this program possible.


From ESL to Advocate

Ana Martinez started attending ESL classes in Montana Vista about a year and a half ago.

Since then her self esteem and confidence level have increased to the point that she is now involved in the community and speaking publicly on behalf of the community. One such instance took place on March 8. As the community of Montana Vista is becoming involved in the political process, they have engaged the department of Justice to effect true immigration reform. On March 8 Ana worked with the “Red Fronteriza” (The Border Network for Immigration) and spoke to community members as well as Justice Department personnel. In addition to this, they are currently organizing an immigration rally that will take place on April 10, 2010. It is awesome to see Ana involved in this as she is also encouraging others to seek justice for the community.

In addition to this, Ana is encouraging the young adults graduating from High School as she has gone with them to fill out applications for study grants and acceptance into the local community colleges.

Transformation Through ESL and Financial Literacy

Over the last six month community members have been gathering at the Spanish Baptist Church for ESL classes and to learn financial management.

One person who has excelled in both is Bertha Guerrero. Her language skills have improved from a level one to a level 3 in less than a year. In addition to this both she and her husband have put into practice what they have learned. His business is turning a profit for the first time, and their personal finances have improved to the point of almost being debt free. They expect to be debt free within a couple of years.

Another Success story is Eva Macias. In the past both she and her husband, have been financially strapped. But after learning how to manage their money and be good stewards of God’s blessings, they have created and implemented a financial plan that is helping them get out of debt. They have gone from being in the red every month, to being able to save $100 dollars a month on average. In addition to this, Eva has been using what she has learned in the ESL class to help her children in school and to tutor other neighborhood children.

Enhancing Skills for Life

Roosevelt Park Ministries is a partner of Volunteers In Service, the West Michigan Communities First partner.  In 2008-2009, Volunteers In Service coached Roosevelt Park Ministries through some ministry planning, including community listening in review of their programs.  Out of this work came a new program offering in the Roosevelt Park neighborhood – English as a second language, or ESL for short.

Below is an excerpt from a recent newsletter, written by the ESL provider, and Roosevelt Park Ministries Board member:

The students work hard to improve their English at ESL classes.

Most commonly ESL stands for “English as a Second Language.” But here at Roosevelt Park Ministries it could also mean “Enhancing Skills for Life.” Everyday activities that are usually simple become much more difficult when there is a language barrier. How do you greet someone at work? How do you explain to the doctor what your symptoms are? How do you discuss your child’s progress at school?

These types of situations determine the topics for each ESL class. We focus on words and phrases common in daily living situations. Proper pronunciation is stressed each week – knowing the right words to say is only helpful if the listener can understand what is said. Weekly lessons build somewhat on each other but not exclusively. Students are encouraged to come to as many classes as they are able, but missing a class does not make the student “fall behind.” We want the classes to be structured for success, teaching students what they want and need to learn.

ESL classes benefit the students and enhance their daily living. But another benefit is the friendships that develop along the way. Because the classes are less structured, conversations often center around the lives of the students and teachers. We get to know each other and learn to care about each other. We are building a community as well as language skills.

The students love having conversations with English speakers. It’s also one of the fastest ways to learn English.

Vicki Vermeer

For more information on Volunteers in Service visit their website: www.visgr.org

Háblame Class

Last week’s Háblame (Reciprocal Language Class) was a blast! In each class we pair up people who want to learn English with people who want to learn Spanish and empower them to teach each other on the weekly teaching theme. Our instructor, Aura, does a great job preparing both language learners with words and phrases during the first part of class and then we practice in pairs for the second half.

There’s something very humbling about learning language. You can hear sheepish laughs as each partner tries to pronounce words in the language their learning, but later they’re the one teaching their partner. It’s beautiful to see everyone at the same level teaching, learning & having fun with someone they don’t usually cross paths with outside of the class.

Last week we had a great time learning words and phrases that would help us go grocery shopping for Thanksgiving. I never new that “relleno” meant stuffing. This week we will learn basic conversation skills, vocabulary and phrases that could be used in a parent/teacher meeting.

Chrissy Padilla Visit the Kingdom Causes Bellflower blog by clicking here.

Diaconal Network ESL

Al Santino, NECT Director

This September, the Community Diaconal Network launched an English as a Second Language (ESL) class which is being hosted by Unity Christian Reformed Church (CRC) in Prospect Park, New Jersey.

The Community Diaconal Network is a collaboration of churches and organizations seeking to bring the deeds of the Gospel to the Haledon‐Prospect Park community through ministries of mercy and development. The Network came together in 2007 as a result of a series of meetings facilitated by Al Santino, Director of Northeast Community Transformation (NECT).

There are several Christian Reformed churches as well as two affiliated community organizations in or near the towns of Haledon and Prospect Park. As we met together, we soon realized that bringing together volunteers, resources and community relationships could have a significant impact on the well‐being of these two towns. The current Network members are: Bridgeway Community Church, Unity CRC, Covenant CRC, New Horizon CRC, Good Shepherd CRC/Apoyo Community Center and New Hope Community Ministries.

The ministries are participating in the ESL program in a variety of ways, such as publicity (including inviting people already participating in their ministries), teaching, conversation practice, hosting and child care. There are currently eight students divided into basic and intermediate classes.

Guillermo, who lives in Prospect Park, is from Costa Rica and has been in the US for six years. He runs a business from his home and works long hours. As I spoke with him, I sensed his zeal and joy to learn English. He wants to learn English “for communication, my job and my children… and I need to practice.”

Bill Reitsma, of Unity CRC, is coordinating the ESL program. He describes the benefits of the NECT‐fostered Diaconal Network: “Networking with ministry partners brings greater resources to the ESL program making it more efficient and effective. And I think most importantly it is exposes both the participants and the volunteers to meaningful ministry experiences. The more people whose lives are touched on both sides of the program, the more opportunity for seeing God work. This builds energy for more ministry.”

Indeed, the Network has plans to expand into other areas of community service such as citizenship classes, working with the New Hope women’s mentoring program and reaching out to other churches and organizations for partnership.

Community Score Card

This is a PowerPoint Tool that can be used to gauge the effectiveness and success of community programs such as ESL, Civics, Computer Literacy, and Building Community.

Download PowerPoint

It’s called an ESL class, but it feels like a party

By Joshua Nardi, Positive Impact Miami

It began in ignorance.  After time, labor and providence, it became more than just an ESL program.  I should describe our methodology or the materials, but those are secondary.

Our magic wand interviews revealed the community residents’ desires to learn English and to gain citizenship. Some church members spoke English and some had taken the arduous test for citizenship; all avenues pointed to an opportunity for an ABCD approach to an identified community need.

So, in an effort to build pathways into the community, Positive Impact Miami leaders designed the English as a Second Language and Civics Program. The program was implemented in two churches as a pilot program. It was no surprise that the program taught the students; but we could never have engineered the glorious and effervescent friendships that is growing out of the program.

After several weeks, the tutors and students were cooking traditional meals together and translating the whole process from Spanish to English.  Students also invited the tutors to visit their workplaces, like sandwich shops or musical performances.  Every night of class somebody brings refreshments.  Each person, both tutor and student has different talents and weaknesses.  Some tutors barely speak Spanish, others barely speak English.

It is obvious that we are all on the same journey together.  It is called an ESL class, but it feels like a party.


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