Literacy Connects is a nonprofit dedicated to helping people learn to read. But the program's services help people do more than learn to read and write. They also teach English language learners how to speak the language.
The English Language Acquisition for Adults program teaches English to immigrants and refugees in churches, schools and libraries across the city. More than 1,600 students from all over the world take part.
"We have students who are at the pre-literate level, interacting with written text for the first time," said Kate Van Roekel of Literacy Connects. "All the way up to advanced conversation classes, where those with advanced degrees are working to refine their English."
The program has 75 tutors, including Felice Larmer. The retired executive said she gets more out of teaching English to the students than they get out of learning.
"I'm so inspired by the dedication of the students," she said. "So devoted, motivated, and it's a privilege to be with them."
The classrooms become melting pots, with adult students from all over the globe learning grammar, reading and conversational English.
"What's really wonderful is they form a community where they feel safe making mistakes, learning, they really support each other," Larmer said.
The program boasts many success stories, including many students going on to obtain U.S. citizenship. But it's the smaller successes Larmer cherishes.
"When I leave class and go out in the parking lot and I see someone from South Korea talking with someone from Ukraine and Mexico in English, I've succeeded," she said.
To get started in the English Language Acquisition for Adults program, students must first attend a Literacy Connects info session on the second and fourth Tuesday of each month.
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