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Imagine living, working and raising a family in a country where you couldn't speak the language. That's the challenge faced by many immigrants to the U.S. But a school district and a church are teaming up to help newcomers find success in their new country. Kim Riemland reports. [Español]    

 
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SCRIPT:

(Locator: Pasadena, TX)

Instructor: “Modesto, you did very well on this.”

Learning a new language isn't easy. But each person in this classroom of newcomers has his own motivation.

Nancy Lopes, ESL Student: "I want better job."

Victor Poisot, ESL Student: “The people around me speak Spanish, so I have no chance to practice English.”

For the last 14 years, United Methodists in Pasadena, Texas have been offering ESL classes. Members of First United Methodist joined the effort when they saw the neighborhood around them changing.

The Rev. Steve Woody, Pasadena First United Methodist: “Hispanic people are all around us and we're closing our eyes or putting our head in the sand if we think that we're not going to have to change a little bit in the future.”

The church provides the building, day care for children, and volunteers.

The Rev. Steve Woody: “We try to give our absolute best facility so that they have a feeling that they're not second-class citizens in our eyes.”

The county department of education provides the teachers.

Janell Baker, Harris County Department of Education: “The church provides some of the support services that the adult-education money does not cover. It's an excellent partnership.”

Instructor: “Barbecue. What group does that fall into?”

Two-hundred adults at a time can take the class. And there's a waiting list.

Forty-three-year-old Franklin Castillo learned English in the program after moving from Peru. Now he owns his own janitorial service and the church is one of his clients.

Franklin Castillo, Small Business Owner: "Before, I'm not speak English, I collect six dollars an hour."

The Rev. Steve Woody: "We pay him in excess of $100,000 a year. He does fantastic work; he's extremely loyal; he's a success story of how ESL has helped to positively change a life."

Franklin Castillo: "Yes, it's American dream." 

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Besides learning English, the courses also help immigrants prepare for GED tests so they can get their high-school equivalency degrees.

For more information, call First United Methodist Church at 281-487-8787.

Also, see: Church helps immigrants learn English, get ahead

Posted: March 4, 2009