NANTICOKE — With a growing Hispanic population in the region, Luzerne County Community College officials are preparing to offer new options for those seeking to learn English.
LCCC’s board of directors on Tuesday formally announced implementation of a full-time English as a Second Language (ESL) program beginning in the fall semester.
“Education is the great equalizer,” LCCC vice president of academic affairs Cheryl Lesser said. “With education and the ability to speak English, you have the ability to achieve whatever you want.”
With more than 317,000 people in Luzerne County, 10.7 percent of residents here were Hispanic or Latino as of 2017, according to U.S. Census data, and those numbers are expected to grow.
For LCCC, the need for ESL will only grow, as at least four of the county’s high schools — Elmer L. Meyers, G.A.R. Memorial, Hazleton Area and Wyoming Valley West — have substantial numbers of Latino/Hispanic students.
“I can speak to this being a former ESL student myself,” said Rosana Reyes, LCCC’s vice president of enrollment management and student development, who with Lesser has been active in promoting the new program. They led Tuesday’s presentation.
“This for me is a realization of what I was hoping for when I was struggling with the language,” Reyes added.
Before students can enroll in the program, they will first have to complete a computerized ESL placement test in reading and writing.
Based on the results, students will be placed in either credit equivalent ESL courses or non-credit ESL courses.
The program will offer two semesters of full-time study courses in reading, writing, speaking and listening. The third semester will include ESL writing classes and students can finally take classes in their desired major.
Each course is supported by a one hour per week intensive one-to-one language lab and tutoring by professors.
ESL classes will be offered at LCCC’s main campus in Nanticoke and at its centers in Hazleton and Wilkes-Barre.
Two currently enrolled ESL students spoke in front of board members to give the program their endorsement and offer thanks for its impact on their lives.
“I think the ESL program at LCCC is the best one I could find in this county,” Dominican Republic native Kenia Ramon Sanchez said. “This program has helped improve my speech, reading and writing.”
“I was a physician in the Dominican Republic, but I want to do that in the United States,” Sanchez said. “In order to do that, I have to improve my English.”
Fellow Dominican Republic native Federlyn Kelly came to the United States eight months ago. He also had high praise for LCCC’s ESL initiative.
“I feel very good,” Kelly said. “When you come from a different country, it’s hard to make a transition. The ESL program has made that transition easy.”
Lesser and Reyes have nine scheduled ESL program recruiting events throughout the summer in Hazleton, Nanticoke and Wilkes-Barre.
“Word of mouth is important in the Spanish community,” Reyes said. “All of our marketing campaigns have been printed in English and Spanish.”
“This is a people-orientated program, it’s not a cog-in-a-wheel type of program,” Lesser said. “You don’t have to come here with any background or preconception and we will help you get wherever you want to go.”
For information, call Irena Mira at 570-740-0776 or Sandra Draus at 570-453-3140.