The ESL In-Home Program of Northern Nevada recognized its tutors and students in an award ceremony at the Governor’s Mansion on Saturday.
The family event included a buffet lunch, Sparkie the Clown making balloon figures for the many children who accompanied their parents, plus demonstrations of West Coast Swing Dancing by Steve Dorman and Emily Judkins, and Jeffrey Munson and Alicia Powers.
In the four years since the ESL In-Home Program was founded, it has helped 1,240 adults become proficient in English, attain a G.E.D., study for citizenship, and improve computer and workplace skills.
Currently, the five-county program has 145 tutors. However 398 prospective adult ESL students are waiting for tutors, said Florence Phillips, executive director program.
“Tutors are the angels of this program,” she said.
Carolyn Kellogg, of Carson City, has been an ESL tutor for two years. Currently, she has six students.
“It’s really inspiring to see how hard the students work in spite of families and jobs (that also demand their time),” Kellogg said.
One of her students, Blanca Lopez, has a full-time job and two part-time jobs.
Lopez has been studying for eight months —about six months with Kellogg.
“She is a great teacher,” Lopez said about Kellogg. “I studied before and I can write. (Now) I can talk more.”
Lopez, a native of Mexico who has lived in Carson City for six years, was accompanied by her daughter, Alondra, 15. Lopez said that learning English will help build a better life for both herself and her daughter.
“I would like to have a career,” she said, “and more for my daughter.”
Nevada State Sen. Ruben Kihuen, D-Las Vegas, encouraged the audience with his own story.
“My story us the story if a lot of these families,” he said.
Born in Mexico, Kihuen came to the United States when he was 8. His father worked as a farm laborer and his mother cleaned homes.
An ESL program in school helped him learn English.
“I grasped on to the language like a sponge. By the time I was 10-years-old I was speaking fluently,” he said. “I can honestly say that without ESL classes I wouldn’t be where I am today.”
Kihuen, the first immigrant in modern history elected to the Nevada Legislature, is serving in his fourth legislative session, two in the Assembly and two in the Senate.
He is working to increase funding for English Language Learning programs for Nevada’s schools.
With a 30 percent Hispanic population in the state, Kihuen explained that the success of the state as a whole is dependent on the success of the individuals. And fluency in English is key to their success.
“I’m the first person to say, if you come to this country and want to be successful, ... you have to learn English first thing,” he said. “Tutors, on behalf of the legislators, we thank you.
“I’m very grateful that there are organizations like this one that are working day-in and day-out for the state of Nevada,” Kihuen said.
Craig Warner, Nevada state director for the Corporation for National and Community Service, which directs volunteer programs, also commended both the volunteers and the students for their hard work.
“It’s the essence of what makes this country great,” Warner said.
U.S. Sen. Harry Reid sent a letter of graduation to the students and commendations to the volunteers who make the program successful.
The ESL In-Home Program of Northern Nevada, a not-for-profit volunteer service organization that provides one-on-one English tutoring at no cost through the help of community volunteer tutors.
For more information about the ESL In-Home Program of Northern Nevada, go to www.eslinhome.org/ or call 775-888-2021