Homemade masks needed for adults learning English

Program also seeks volunteers to teach and help students in other ways

Were you aware that dozens of adults from across the globe, determined to improve their English, regularly meet in downtown Dayton?

We’ve written about the excellent St. John’s ESOL program, located at St. John’s United Church of Christ, that has been offering ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) classes for nearly 30 years. Over that time, thousands of immigrants and refugees have improved their English fluency and have moved on to employment, college and citizenship, becoming contributing members of our community.

Due to the coronavirus, classes have had to adjust to the the new policies given by the state. “Even with all of the chaos and unknowns in the world, students still want to learn English,” says program coordinator Leah Brown. “Currently, some classes are offered online while other classes are offered in-person on a limited-seating basis.”

“This past year, over 350 students from 68 different countries, speaking 66 different languages have come through the doors to learn English and American culture,” says Brown. “Current students come from places like Democratic Republic of the Congo, Turkey, Guatemala, China, Eritrea and Iraq. Many of the students have never been to school in their own country or have never had the opportunity to learn to read in their own language.”

St. John’s ESOL program offers five levels of English classes, a citizenship class, a pre-literacy class, contextualized workforce classes, GED/HSE preparation classes, computer literacy classes and a conversation club. The school depends on volunteers to teach and tutor more than 80 students who attend classes.

“Each class has a variety of students from all over the world who have different backgrounds, cultures, and beliefs,” says Brown. “Though each class has such a diverse group of people, the unifying factor is students’ motivation to learn English. St. John’s has been a melting pot and it’s a joy to see students learn and grow together in their knowledge of English and integrate into the community.”

Guest speakers

The St. John’s goal is to help students transition into American life, a career, and/or college. To encourage that, the school brings in guest speakers to talk to students about life in the U.S. The police department comes in frequently to give safety lectures and United States Citizenship and Immigration Services officers come in to discuss the immigration process. Twice a year, students celebrate the end of the term with food and dancing from their own cultural backgrounds.

The school is managed by Miami Valley Career Technology Center’s Adult Education and is funded by grants through Ohio ASPIRE. Other sites are located in Huber Heights, Fairborn, Dayton, Kettering and West Carrollton. Class times include mornings, afternoons and evenings.

“In the past, when our program has been featured in this column, our program received several donations and even some volunteer teachers,” says Brown. “With over 350 students this past year, we have been very grateful for every donation as each student receives basic supplies as they begin classes. Thank you for your part in helping our program.”

Here’s what they can use:

• Homemade face masks

• Two-pocket folders

• Dry-erase markers

• Microfiber towels

• Tissues

• Spiral notebooks

Drop-offs can be made from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays at St. John’s UCC, 515 E. Third St. Please call first to be certain someone is there to receive them. Contact program coordinator Leah Brown at (937) 461-3332 or leahbrown@mvctc.com.

Other ways to help

Brown says the biggest need for the program is volunteer teachers. Volunteers are not limited to teaching, but can be a conversation partner, computer instructor, or one-on-one tutor. “Volunteers do not need to be certified to teach ESOL as the staff will help train and prepare them,” says Brown.


Meredith Moss writes about nonprofit organizations in our area and their specific needs. If your group has a wish list it would like to share with our readers, contact Meredith: MMoss@coxohio.com

Please include a daytime phone number and a photo that reflects your group’s mission.

About the Author