Students of the Clewiston Library’s first-ever English as a Second Language (ESL) class graduated in front of a supportive audience made up of friends and family on June 5.
More than a dozen chairs lined the library’s back classroom where a “Congratulations ESL Class 2014” sign hung above a table full of presents, plaques and snacks.
Pastor Benjamin Escorcia, of Iglesia de Dios Pentecostal, acted as emcee and translated between English and Spanish throughout the ceremony, while his daughter, Lorena Escorcia, provided the entertainment as she led audience members in a sing-a-long of “If you’re happy and you know it.”
“I’m happy to see there’s a program here in our community that helps our children learn English,” said Ms. Escorcia after the song ended. Ms. Escorcia speaks several different languages herself, including both English and Spanish. She touted the importance of “learning every day” and hoped the five students who graduated would spread their new-found knowledge with those around them.
A slide show followed Ms. Escorcia’s performance and featured pictures of the students during their lessons as they learned basic English grammar, reading and writing.
“It’s never too late to learn,” said Pastor Escorcia as the slide show came to a close. “I know for sure these five students will continue to learn.”
Members of the Harvest of Hope dance club took center stage next, captivating the audience as they performed a traditional Latin dance under the direction of Adrianna Soto, before Program Instructor Diana Osborne stood before her soon-to-be former students and congratulated them on their hard work throughout the course.
“Communication is fundamental. I know it’s difficult to learn English, but you did it! And it is important to celebrate all of your victories,” Ms. Osborne said.
Ms. Osborne served as instructor for the library’s first ESL class, creating all of the curriculum used throughout the course.
Library Director Ava Barrett said Ms. Osborne was the driving force behind the program. Ms. Osborne came on board as a volunteer, but thanks to the grant from the Southwest Florida Community Foundation — which provided the funds that made the course possible — the library was able to give Ms. Osborne some compensation for her efforts. Ms. Barrett said she was embarrassed to say that the library even paid Ms. Osborne, however, because of how minuscule the amount was: Ms. Osborne was paid for eight hours of work per week, but dedicated at least 40.
“This is Diana’s program. We are very, very proud of what she’s done here,” said Ms. Barrett.
But the pride did not stop at Ms. Osborne.
“We would not be able to be here to say thank you if the five students weren’t here giving their time and hard work,” said Ms. Barrett.
According to Ms. Barrett, many of the students walked to the library in order to participate in the course and some even took time off of work to be there, as well.
The five students were given plaques to symbolize their hard work and dedication, presented by Clewiston City Commissioner Kristine Petersen, and were also awarded brand new iPads to aid in their continued learning.
All of the awards were bought using money from the Southwest Florida Community Foundation’s donation to the Hendry County Library System, presented to Ms. Barrett in early November.
The following students graduated from the ESL course on June 5:
Martin Lerma Marrufo
Maria dela Luz Garcia
Rocio Rojas Mexicano
Maria del Carmer Sanchez Gomez