ESL program reaches adult learners

The IHM Core Values of Justice and Respect for Diversity have long motivated the congregation to foster the human aspirations of people, particularly where needs are unmet and social structures inadequate. Chapter 2006 issued the challenge to promote justice for immigrant persons in local and global dimensions. Therefore, as the IHM Corporate Stance on Immigration was promulgated on May 3, 2008, every sister was invited to internalize the words that were spoken and to find ways to live out and witness to this commitment.

The opening of hearts and sharing of cultures have influenced not only the individuals participating in the program but their families and co-workers as well. Experience provided a depth of understanding regarding the challenges faced by learners, cultural differences, and the components of effective language and literacy programs.

The English as a Second Language Program (ESL) is one of many ministries our sisters provide in support of education. Efforts to promote justice for local immigrants soon highlighted the need for an ESL program in South Scranton to serve the fast growing Latino population and other immigrant groups living in that area. Working in collaboration with Catholic Social Services and Nativity of Our Lord Parish, an ESL program was established in fall 2008. An IHM sister was appointed as full-time director and work was underway to find teachers, seek funding, identify materials, learn techniques, locate teaching space, and publicize the program. Classes began on December 1, 2008, with 40 adult learners and 18 instructors, using space in Nativity Rectory and Marian Catholic School. The adult learners were primarily Latino and came with a range of English language skills. When classes ended for the summer in June 2008, the adult learners indicated marked improvement in understanding spoken and written English and in their ability to communicate with native English-speaking persons. There was a wholehearted desire to continue the classes in the fall.

The initial efforts with ESL have suggested a clear need to continue the program. Therefore, planning for the future continues, and with it hopes increase for expansion of the program in order to provide other needed services. Collaborative efforts between Marywood University, local funding sources and interested parties continue to provide a resource for teachers, volunteers and necessary materials. Feedback from the adult learners indicated consistent progress in the language as well as a sense of belonging and community fostered by the program. The teachers have expressed great satisfaction from the experience and appreciation for the personal relationships that have been forged with their immigrant partners.

The opening of hearts and sharing of cultures have influenced not only the individuals participating in the program but their families and co-workers as well. Experience provided a depth of understanding regarding the challenges faced by learners, cultural differences, and the components of effective language and literacy programs.

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