Students reach Rome community through ESL

Giuliana Fernandez Reporter

Avery Boulware Editor

Community members come to Berry’s campus twice a week to learn English from Berry students

The English as a Second Language (ESL) program at Berry allows students to experience different cultures twice a week without leaving the “Berry Bubble.” 

The ESL program allows members of the community to learn English at Berry, free-of-charge. The program is fully run by Berry students and is sponsored by the Latin American and Caribbean Studies Department. A free daycare, called “la guarderia,” is also offered for children of ESL students. 

Because the ESL program is not funded by the government and is therefore not required to provide documentation, it is able to fully serve the Rome community and Floyd County, even persons who do not have proof of citizenship.  

Junior Annie Patton is a Spanish major who has been helping with the ESL program since 2014. She is currently a lead teacher for the literacy class.  

“(ESL) gives this community without a voice a place to come together and have a voice,” Patton said.  

The Berry College ESL program offers four grammar classes (basic through advanced), a GED program, a citizenship class and a recently added literacy class.  

In years prior, there was inconsistency in the classroom because Berry students who worked as lead teachers would rarely work both Tuesday and Thursday nights. This year, lead teachers are considered student work positions, but students are only paid if they work both nights. This has allowed the program to grow and provide consistency for ESL students.  

Julia Barnes, associate professor of foreign languages, said that ESL allows Berry students to change the world through proximity. As the director of the program, she wants to see students have a consistent impact on this particular community.  

Senior Spanish and psychology major Samantha Marshall is the student director of ESL. Marshall said the ESL program is a great opportunity to work with the immigrant population. Berry students can experience life outside the “Berry bubble” while staying inside it, she said. 

“There’s a culture to learn,” Marshall said. “The students of ESL get to learn about the United States, and our teachers get a small piece of where the students are coming from.”  

One of the biggest struggles the ESL program experiences is with the gatehouse. Since Berry security requires a license to enter campus, many of the participants cannot come unless they carpool or pay a taxi. 

“I am not satisfied with that arrangement,” Barnes said. “That is a lot of money to spend to come to this program, and we want to make it accessible.”  

One solution to this problem that Barnes sees is the upcoming ESL program at Coosa High School. The program will Berry’s curriculum, and participants will also not need documentation, nor will there be a gatehouse. According to Barnes, this will hopefully allow even more members of the community to be reached.  

A distinct aspect of Berry’s ESL program is the free childcare that is offered. Childcare is completely free and has no age limit. It is a place where the children of the ESL students can relax and play while their parents are in class. There are games and toys for the children to play with, and the ESL staff also encourages the children to bring their homework so the volunteers can help. The childcare program is directed by junior Early Childhood Education major Trevor Lusk.  

“Typically, the role of childcare falls on the women of the household, and we want the whole family to come, so we provide this resource,” Lusk said.  

As the mission statement reads, Berry’s ESL program “exists to empower immigrants and their children in Rome and the surrounding areas in order to establish their voice and realize their goals by providing a safe an effective learning environment.” 

The ESL program invites all Berry students to participate. No Spanish is required—they simply ask for reliability, an interest in social issues and a dedication to serving others. 

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