GRACE ESL PROGRAM UPDATE
In the first weeks of March, as more information was being learned and given out regarding COVID-19, the staff of Grace’s ESL program talked with their students about the symptoms known at that time, demonstrated handwashing while the group sang Happy Birthday twice, and gave advice on contacting health care providers. Suspending classes mid-month was sad for staff and students alike. After several weeks had passed, and it was apparent that classes could not be resumed in-person for an indeterminate amount of time, the staff met virtually to discuss how best to move forward. The decision was made to continue the twice weekly classes using the Zoom meeting platform. Students were individually contacted by staff members to explain what would be happening. Calls went out for used tablets or iPad, to match students who needed them with devices that would support Zoom. In addition, other tablets were purchased and distributed to students. We are incredibly grateful that the Penn Medicine grant helped to make these purchases possible.
The staff is continuing to learn how to maximize the use of the Zoom gatherings. Much of each class is spent in breakout rooms, affording the opportunity for small group instruction. Through the spring and summer an average of eight to ten were present at each class session. Currently, average attendance is somewhat smaller, but greater individualized instruction has been possible. These numbers do not include the many children, who are there to see what is happening and to encourage their parents as they work to improve their fluency in English. This fall has also seen the distribution of ESL textbooks to the students. In this difficult time for our country and the world, connections and learning are continuing!
If you have any questions or would like to join our program please contact the church office at 717-397-2748.
Grace’s ESL program has recently received its second grant from Penn Medicine LGH for its English language work with Lancaster County immigrants and refugees. Now in its third year of operation, the program is currently meeting twice a week via Zoom. Grace volunteers along with some from James Street Mennonite Church are continuing to provide small group language instruction and conversation. This $1500 grant will provide much needed instructional materials, and in some cases, tablets that enable students to participate in the online classes.