KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – At Centro Hispano de East Tennessee, some of the nonprofit’s services include workforce development programs like language literacy classes.
The biggest component of these classes is offering an English as a Second Language (ESL) course. Centro Hispano directors say these kinds of tools help to remove barriers and spark success.
“I always start each day of my class trying to get a bit of information from my students, what they like… what they want to learn…” says Michelle Hester, a Centro Hispano ESL volunteer.
The opportunities to learn at Centro Hispano can be found on nearly every surface at the resource center – in both English and Spanish.
“We try to teach them culture in a way that… encourages them to speak English as much as possible, regardless of how they feel. It’s better they just get in there and do it,” Hester says of the students, most of whom are adults. “They come here four days a week and struggle and try to make it and learn as much about the new country that they’ve adopted.”
Volunteers like Hester teach the ESL classes, seeing the “Aha!” moments and everything in between.
“It is so interesting to learn about different people groups and people who are so different than yourself. To be able to invest in your community, I think it’s an important opportunity,” says Gracie Cole, another ESL volunteer and University of Tennessee student.
Centro Hispano served more than 300 students last year, providing 3,000-plus educational hours to students.
“Whenever you begin to remove the barriers that prevent people from being the best that their potential allows them to be, that’s really when you start to see what they can offer for the greater community and what greater value they bring,” says Brandon Ledford, workforce development director at Centro Hispano.
Literacy isn’t just understanding language, it also includes skills like using email, basic banking and building credit. These classes provide freedom.
“It’s admirable – most of these people work, and after that they bring themselves in here to work some more,” Hester says. “Nobody is forcing them to do this, but they’re wanting to be a productive member of the community.”
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For more information regarding the resources offered at Centro Hispano de East Tennessee, click here
Para entrar más información sobre los recursos en Centro Hispano de East Tennessee, haga clic aquí
Spanish translation provided by Melanie Vásquez Russell