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ESL at Second by Gwen Phillips

ESL at Second…

I’m not sure how many of you know that we have a volunteer program for English learners at Second.  About nine years ago, several of us spent the weekend in training to be certified as English as a Second Language instructors.  Fourteen hours later, it was official!  Over the years, we’ve had friends from Mexico, Guatemala, French-speaking Canada, Colombia, Peru, Iran, El Salvador, South Korea, Sudan and Morocco.  Some of the learners have come for a season and are gone.  Others continue to come when they can and learn all they can.  I’ve had the privilege of being in their homes, getting to know their families, helping them move to their first owned home…I even taught one friend how to drive.  Scary!

It can be hard not to have “favorites, ” and really, I have loved every opportunity.  But, let me tell you about my sweet friend, Lilian.  We have been friends for about five years.  She is from Guatemala and has a smile that just makes you like her immediately.  She came to me wanting to learn how to “speak better” and communicate with the people around her.  We worked on everything from vocabulary to verb tenses.  We practiced talking on the phone and making appointments.  We role played parent/teacher conferences and asking for help at a department store.  We went to the grocery and learned about where to find different foods. 

Then one day, I asked Lilian if she would like to become a U. S. citizen someday.  I told her I could get the questions that they would ask her when she took the test and we could practice together.  She said “yes,” and we began to study.  Finally, the day came where she made the appointment to take the test, and she was successful!  She received the announcement about where her citizenship ceremony would be and asked me to come along with her and her husband.  What a thrill!  We joined about 85 other new citizens at the Truman Library in Independence.  I wept through most of the ceremony.  None of us will ever know the sacrifices these friends have made to get to this place, and I was just so incredibly proud of all of them, especially Lilian.

My sweet friend continues to come once a week to English class.  She speaks English well and talks constantly!  I am so very thankful that Second Baptist encourages each of us to follow our passions and provides the place to make it happen.  May we always have our doors open to new friends and new opportunities.


Posted by gwen phillips at 11:07 AM
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