In the Deep Midwinter, One Common Goal

January 1, 2017 Published by Julie Arrison-Bishop

Winter is a time for gathering in, a season to pull inwards, both for protection and for growing stronger.  No Settlement program demonstrates that instinct better than the Adult ESL and citizenship program currently running at Salem Academy Charter School.  Of all the partnerships that make up our Settlement programming, none speaks most clearly and urgently to the temper of our times.

Since 2014, The Gables has provided funding to run the Adult English-as-a Second Language and citizenship classes.  However, this year the program grew in strength and significance. Classes started on October 17, met three evenings per week, and will run until the end of June this year.

At its midpoint in December, the program was running full steam, with 65 enrolled esl-class-3students and 17 additional adults waiting to join the program in January.

Students range in age from 17 to 66 years, and they mainly come from the Dominican Republic.  Two students are from Mexico, four from Brazil, and one person is from Haiti. Though these immigrants are easily identifiable by countries of origin, describing their life stories, hopes, and dreams is a challenging task.

The goal that binds the students together is the desire to learn English and become U.S. citizens.  However, their diversity of perspectives can be seen in the range of comments compiled by Lishbeht Ramos, a Salem State University student who served as an intern during the program this fall.

After the elections in November, she interviewed the adult students in our program and captured their reactions to the question:  What are your feelings about the way people have been treating each other since the elections?  Below are some of their responses:

“I’m surprised by the results, but we have to accept the results. Well, every person has their own opinion — one person likes one party, and the other likes another party. Each candidate had good and bad qualities.”

“. . . For me, I didn’t really care about the elections because you know that both candidates were not the best people for [the job].  In reality, people need to vote, but I really didn’t like how the elections went.”

“Since Donald Trump won, the people are living in fear now. Fear that they will be sent back to their country.”

 “What, the elections?  Donald Trump won the elections. I think that he can’t be that bad of a man, like a monster that [he seemed to be] during the campaign, right?  The majority of senators are from the same party, so I think that it is going to be a good thing for the immigrants. I think so because Obama had like, eight years [in office], and he couldn’t do anything.  He couldn’t do anything because the senators were stronger.  So now I think that if all the people are together, I think that it will be easier, a good thing.”

“We are very surprised with what happened.  We weren’t expecting this.  I asked, ‘And what else?! ‘ And I don’t know what’s going to happen next.”

 

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This post was written by Julie Arrison-Bishop