English Language Programs Provide Immigrants Chance at American Dream
COLUMBIA -Refugees and immigrants in Columbia can say "hello" to new opportunities with the English Language Learners program.
For immigrant students, there is one thing they want most.
"I want to speak English," says Eman Eli, a student who immigrated from Iraq.
In the fall, Columbia public schools will brace for the highest number of students who do not speak English as their primary language.
The ELL programs are not only increasingly popular in elementary education, but are becoming more desirable by adults as well.
The Adult Education Literacy program, based at Douglass High School and a handfull of other locations in Columbia, has more than twelve-hundred adults enrolled in ELL.
The adults take an English placement exam before enrolling, which puts them in either the beginning, intermediate, or G-E-D class.
Once immigrant students become proficient in English, they are placed in advanced English or G-E-D classes with American students. Dan Murphy, Education Coordinator for Refugee and Immigration Services, says the diversity in the classroom is positive for all students.
"It's a great exposure for American students to actually meet someone from a different culture and hear about how things are in this country as opposed to their country."
The classrooms also provide a glimpse of the American dream for immigrants.
"I have to start a new life...and learn many many things about the American culture because it's very different from my country," says Rossanell Valer, a student who immigrated from Peru to be with her children in Columbia.
The Adult and Education Literacy Program is the only ELL program in Columbia that is funded by the state government. Just recently, the group received a $450,000 grant. The schools will use that money to fund the salaries of the program's 19 teachers and pay for books and testing materials.
Adult and Education Literacy considers the program's numerous volunteers priceless.
Volunteer Chet Savage says, "It's fun to see them progress and get better at English for their day-to-day lives, knowing that's going to make them more economically viable."