Awarded the Volunteer Non-Profit of the Year Award by Lieutenant Governor Greg Bell for 2011-2012, the English Skills Learning Center (ESLC) is one of the community partners that works with the Thayne Center for Service and Learning at Salt Lake Community College to provide service-learning opportunities for students.
Students who opt to work with the ESLC will receive training to teach basic English skills to adult refugees and immigrants. Once trained, students may deliver the English classes through one-on-one learning, small group classes, citizenship classes or the Empowering Parents program.
“English is the key to their [refugees and immigrants] integration, security and empowerment,” said Beth Garstka, volunteer coordinator for the ESLC.
Volunteer instructors must pass a background check and pay a small fee to cover the cost of teaching materials. They go through 12 hours of training and must observe two classes before they are allowed to teach on their own. Once training is completed, the ESLC matches the instructor with a student or students.
Instructors do not need to know another language, nor do they need teaching skills. The time commitment is about two hours per week for in-class teaching.
The one-on-one learning program generally takes place at the student’s home and is reserved for those with special needs. Those with a lack of transportation, no childcare or work schedules that do not allow them to make regularly scheduled classes may qualify for this option.
Small group classes have between five and ten students and are taught at different organizations. Classes have been held at the University of Utah, the United Way, and a couple of recreation centers in Midvale. The ESLC is looking to start a program near the Highland Center.
Citizenship classes are specifically geared toward those students who wish to become United States citizens. Instructors help with preparing for the test, which includes an interview and covers reading, writing and civics.
For the Empowering Parents program, instructors go into Title I schools and teach a curriculum that covers what is expected in school, how to read a report card, how to read to children and how to call the school when a child cannot attend because of illness.
All classes are adapted to the students’ needs. Whether trying to get a better job or just learn how to shop, instructors work to provide the real-life skills that will help their students succeed.
“We want to integrate students into where they are living,” said Garstka.
The ESLC program is a first step on the way to better English skills. As such, the ESLC serves people who maybe pre-literate and have very little to no English knowledge. Program participants have come from all over the world including places like Burma, Nepal and Bosnia.
The ESLC is a non-profit organization that was established in 1988. Approximately 200 volunteers teach 500 students during any given month. Most volunteers remain with the program for a year. Grants and donations pay for students to be able to take the classes for free. Volunteer instructors make those classes possible.
Those who would like to find out more about this program or other service-learning opportunities may speak with someone in the Thayne Center who can be reached by calling (801)957-4555. The Thayne Center is located on the Taylorsville Redwood Campus in the Student Center Room 020.