Center helps foreign-born with language

YOUNGSTOWN – A center on the city’s South Side offers instruction in English for those from other countries to help them overcome language barriers.

Founded in 1985, the non-profit organization has 110 foreign-born students who attend classes three days a week as part of an English as a second language program. The center is housed at the John Knox Presbyterian Church on Market Street and originally was part of the International Institute, which closed in 1986.

The center has educators who provide instruction in English to help with enhancing their communication skills.

Rosemarie Kascher, an instructor, said there are different teachers for each level of English provided from Level 1 is a pre-literacy level for those with little or no English to Level 6, which is the most advanced class with reading, writing, pronunciation, speaking and comprehension.

Kascher, who instructs Level 6, said the program is an affiliate of the Youngstown school’s Adult Basic Literacy Education (ABLE) program.

She said when a student first comes to the center, he or she is given a placement test to determine how much English background they have had in order to place them in their appropriate learning level. Kascher said many at the higher levels have college educations from another country.

Level 6 prepares students for Test of English as a Foreign Language examination given to professional people and students entering the university.

Marcia Kennedy, a student in Level 6 of Cortland from Brazil who previously worked with Swiss Airlines, said she has worked with Youngstown State University and wants to continue her English.

“I was speaking English when I was working for Swiss Airlines Company, but after I got married and moved here I realized that I had needed to be able to speak English to get a job and be able to compete in the market.What I have learned has made all the difference for me and made me feel more comfortable,” Kennedy said.

She said the atmosphere at the center is one of ”warmth and friendliness” and like a second home for many of the students.

Kennedy said the center is contacted for assistance by local churches, organizations and area high schools who are sponsoring an individual from other countries.

Kabria of Morocco and a Liberty resident said learning English has helped her to do what others do each day such as pay bills, open an account, help her children and make phone calls.

“One of my neighbors helped me out with my vocabulary so I was able to do more,” she said.

Kascher, a retired college instructor, said her parents came to America and she would not have had the opportunities that she has had without help.

“I am very sympathetic to their needs and what they face,” she said.

Adelina of Mexico and an Austintown resident said she has an opportunity in America to study and help her child.

“Having done this has helped me like a door was opened for me,” she said.

Genne of Russia from Warren said she came to America from Russia nine years ago and had some English but after coming to the center has learned so much more and has made “a huge difference in her life in all aspects from writing and reading.” She has taken the exam for citizenship.

Kascher said a free citizenship classes will be offered in March at Choffin Career Center.

Yeni of Honduras of Youngstown said her English was limited so she started at Level 1 and had made it to Level 6 which she said has helped her at work.

“I enjoy my classmates who have helped me,” she said.

Kennedy said she learns from her classmates who likewise learn about the similarities and difference from her about different cultures and languages.

Kennedy said she is very grateful for all the assistance she has received and being able to feel more comfortable with the language.

Kascher said the students are all hardworking and often put pressure on themselves.

“I know what their goals are and want them to achieve them,” she said.

Many of the students have taken English in high school as a foreign language.

“American English is the international language of the world but it not the official language of the United States,” Kascher said noting 320 different languages are spoken in America.

”Language is a unified force which ties people together,” she said.

Kennedy said the center is like a family.

“All of us share the same experience. We can identify with one another on how we feel,” Kennedy said.