Church, WNCC team up to teach English
Imagine living in a country where you don’t speak the language. No matter how long you reside there, you are still considered a “guest.” Everywhere you turn, you are greeted by a closed door or an impatient face. Now, imagine you have found help.
Western Nevada Community College and the Carson Valley Church of the Nazarene have begun a free program to teach Spanish-speaking people enough English to complete such everyday tasks as going to the post office, the store and the bank. The class will also teach basic computer literacy.
Aurora Ruiz-Hurte, director of Adult Basic Education at WNCC, was the connecting link between the Carson Valley Church of the Nazarene and WNCC.
“I spoke with Pastor Gary (Johnson) and told him I was interested in helping. He answered me with ‘My prayers have been answered,'” Ruiz-Hurte said with a laugh.
Ruiz-Hurte said that the class will also offer a GED program for both ESL students and native English-speakers.
“We are going to emphasize more on the ESL program, but everyone is welcome,” she said. “We also will be offering scholarships for the test, if people can’t afford it.”
Ruiz-Hurte said that an ESL program with computer literacy will be offered at the WNCC main campus and Lake Tahoe campus as well as at the Church of the Nazarene.
She said the class is open to those 16 and older. According to Ruiz-Hurte, Social Security cards are not required.
“We aren’t looking for a Social Security number. We are open to everyone who needs us,” she said.
Ruiz-Hurte said that 348 people registered in the fall semester within the three campuses. Registered students are able to use the computer labs on the WNCC campus, which are open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week.
Pastor Johnson said he had a long-time desire to begin an English as a second language class.
“There is an increasing number of Spanish-speaking people in the area. Sometimes they come to the church with needs. We want to help as much as we can.”
n Ulterior motive. Johnson said that he has an ulterior motive with offering the class at the church.
“Ideally, we would like to set them up with a place of worship. Not all of them are Catholic. I would love to offer a Spanish service,” he said.
Johnson said the program has been at least a year in the making.
“We tried to start it up ourselves but it never really caught on. It was a godsend when the people over at WNCC noticed and told us they would help.”
Johnson said he is excited about the prospect of learning Spanish in the process.
“I think it would be marvelous to learn another language. It would only mean I could help more,” he said.
Maria Leonard will act as a liaison between the teacher and the class. Leonard, a native of Mexico, understands what it is like to be in a country without knowing the language.
“I worked at a bank for seven years. While I was there, I was a magnet. People could tell that I was bilingual. It is terrifying to learn a new language and it is exciting to find someone who can help you,” she said.
Leonard was asked to help with the class by Pastor Johnson.
“After I told him of my interest, he told me he had been praying for an answer to come along and I was it. I hope so. That makes a lot of pressure, but I am ready for it,” she said.
Leonard began to learn English at a community college after moving to the United States with her husband.
“I hated it at first, but I had to learn it. It took me awhile to simply learn how to tell someone I wanted to learn English. When you walk in to sign up, you have to tell them somehow,” Leonard explained.
Leonard said that while preparing for the class, she has met many people who are frustrated with the way they have been treated.
“They have been treated as though they are ignorant and they are not. Some of them were professionals in their own countries. I know of one who was a teacher in Colombia and is cleaning houses now.”
Leonard also cites learning English as a useful tool between parent and child.
“How can parents help children with their homework if they don’t understand it either?”
Leonard invited some families to her home on Christmas Eve to find out exactly what they were looking for from the class.
n Different needs. “I want to hear what they need. Every family requires different needs and it is impossible to figure out what those are without them telling us.”
Leonard made tamales and gave each family a bag of food.
“I think it is important on Christmas to have someone who isn’t family come over. As humans, we need to help each other. We need to learn to trust each other. If you don’t go out of your way, people won’t learn to trust you,” she said.
“Latino people are not a burden. They do so much within their community, but without knowing the language, it means nothing. We are the guests in this country,” Leonard said.
The classes will start Jan. 24. They will meet Wednesdays, 6-8 p.m., and Saturdays, 10 a.m. to noon. Those interested can sign up at the WNCC main campus, in the Bristlecone building, room 340, in Carson City or at the Church of the Nazarene, corner of Pinenut and East Valley roads. The church can be reached at 782-4498.