Now, a social service agency and two churches have started another ESL program, augmenting the one already being offered at St. Henry’s.
Highways, a program of the Windmill Alliance, Inc., in collaboration with Hand in Hand, a ministry of Grace Lutheran Church and Trinity Episcopal Church, is sponsoring the ESL classes.
Seventy-five people have been taking the class since March 18, and many more had to be turned away, according to Rev. Rose Cohen Hassan of Trinity Parish.
There are five classes, and more could have been added if there were additional volunteer teachers. A training session was held in the winter to staff the classes.
Those enrolled came in droves because they see the course as a way to increase their quality of life.
“There are so many people in Bayonne that are immigrants; people who are immigrants are underemployed when they don’t have language skills,” Hassan said. “They’re coming here to better themselves and make themselves more employable. We’re a nation of immigrants; the only way to do well is to be able to speak English.”
The breakdown of those attending the classes is: 45 percent Arabic speaking, 45 percent Spanish, and 10 percent who speak Polish, Russian, or Portuguese.
The Highways program offers related services, such as free textbooks, free refreshments and meals, and free childcare.
“To me it’s about hospitality. We’re running a program so that people feel incredibly welcomed.” – Rev. Rose Cohen Hassan
It takes six adults to properly supervise all the youngsters that come with class attendees.
The food provided runs the gamut from simple snacks to baked ziti, and there is always dessert.
The additional services are provided as a way of welcoming those new to the country.
“To me it’s about hospitality,” Hassan said. “We’re running a program so that people feel incredibly welcomed.”
Classes are held at Grace Lutheran Church, 836 Avenue C, which has large classroom capabilities, and the pastor there, Rev. Gary Grindeland, is happy to host the group.
A chance to succeed
“The more they know the language, the greater their chance for success, and the greater their possibilities for advancement,” Grindeland said.
The classes are not held to change anyone’s culture or interests; just to teach them the language that can help them get ahead.
“It isn’t a question of English language as a culture,” Grindeland said. “People’s cultural backgrounds remain intact, but English is the common link that joins the cultures together.”
Funding for program
The registration fee for the ESL classes was $20, half of which will be returned to those who finish the semester.
Those discounts are possible because of grants received for the program; $5,000 from Wheat Ridge Ministries and $2,500 from the Grace Lutheran Foundation.
For more information
For more information about fall ESL classes, email Rev. Rose Cohen Hassan, ESL program director, at RCHassan@WindmillAlliance.org or call (201) 471-2634 from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Joseph Passantino may be reached at JoePass@hudsonreporter.com.