How you can help these local students learning English

Rebecca Williams (pictured center) stands with ESOL students Alivera Mukamurengera (left) and Kabibi Ruseka. Both students are from Rwanda. CONTRIBUTED

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Rebecca Williams (pictured center) stands with ESOL students Alivera Mukamurengera (left) and Kabibi Ruseka. Both students are from Rwanda. CONTRIBUTED

Were you aware that dozens of students from across the globe, determined to improve their English, meet in downtown Dayton every weekday morning?

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.

“This past year, nearly 500 students from 60 different countries, speaking 50 different languages have come through the doors to learn English and American culture! ” says program coordinator Rebecca Williams. “Current students come from places like Brazil, China, Eritrea, Democratic Republic of Congo, Colombia, Lithuania, Turkey, Vietnam and Afghanistan. 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, an employment class, GED preparation classes, computer literacy classes and a conversation club. The school depends on volunteers to teach and tutor more than 100 students who attend classes every morning. “Each class is a mix of cultures, beliefs and languages, but the unifying factor is a desire to learn English,” says Williams. ” The students are truly grateful for the helping hand they receive to move toward independence in the community.”

The school is managed by Miami Valley Career Technology Center’s Adult Education and is grant funded through Ohio ASPIRE. Other MVCTC ESOL sites are located in Huber Heights, Fairborn, Dayton and Sinclair Community College and class times include mornings, afternoons and evenings. The Huber Heights school at Sulphur Grove UMC offers free childcare so parents can attend ESOL classes.

“The school frequently brings in guest speakers to talk to students about life in the United States,” Williams says. “The Dayton Police Department gives safety lectures, and experts from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services talk about the immigration process. Twice a year, students share food and practices from their own culture at end-of-term celebrations.”

“Last time you featured our program we received several donations — including a generous gift card to an office supply store,” says Williams. ” We give every student basic supplies as they begin classes. With nearly 500 students this past year, we have been very grateful for every donation of spiral notebooks, pocket folders and pencils. Thank you for your part in helping our program!”

Here’s what they can use:

  • Spiral notebooks
  • Pocket folders
  • Pencils
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Disinfectant wipes
  • Dry erase markers and erasers
  • Picture dictionaries

The project is always in need of volunteer teachers, tutors and babysitters. “Prospective volunteers do not need to be certified to teach ESOL; our coordinators help with training,” says Williams. “St. John’s can also use help with conversation partners, computer instructors and one-on-one tutors. The Sulphur Grove site could use volunteers for child care.”

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 Becky Williams at 937-461-3332 or


Each week, staff writer Meredith Moss profiles a non-profit organization and its specific needs. If your group would like to share a wish list with readers, contact Meredith: Please include a daytime phone number and a photo when available.

Meredith and her column were the 2017 recipients of Church Women United’s Human Rights award.

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