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District partners with library to offer adult English language course

CCPlCharleston County School District (CCSD) continues to  develop innovative partnership opportunities with Charleston County Public  Library (CCPL) to serve families in the community. The newest partnership is between the district Adult Education Department and Otranto Road Library in North Charleston to serve multilingual adults and their families.  

“We appreciate community partners who open their doors so our adult  learners have the opportunity to improve their English language skills,” said  Susan Friedrich, CCSD Adult Education director.  

CCSD Adult Education offered a 75-hour English language course to improve  listening, speaking, reading, and writing. The class met twice a week and  included meet-ups at the library for conversation practice, library tours, and  guest speakers.  

The English course improved multilingual adults’ confidence and their ability to do the daily tasks. The course focused on helping adult learners and their  families integrate into the Charleston community. Topics included understanding hurricanes, finding housing, filling out a job application, talking to a doctor, communicating with school staff. For example, adult students identified their evacuation route and learned how to prepare a “go bag” for their family.  

Participants practiced sending emails, learned about resources available at the library, and were able to sign up for a library card. Since most of the students  were also parents, the course included field trips and scavenger hunts at the  library for the entire family. 

“Offering classes at the public library opens up a whole new world for adult students and their families and helps them integrate into the  community,” explained Justine Autry, coordinator of CCSD’s Adult English program.  

According to Donna Adams, Assistant Librarian at Otranto Road Library, adult  learners love interacting with librarians in English, fostering a love of reading in their children, and improving their career and educational prospects using the  library's resources.  

“We are excited to continue this partnership to serve our community’s families,”  said Adams. 

Funding to launch this initiative was provided by Dollar General Literacy  Foundation and Boeing Employees Community Fund. The donations offset staffing costs and were used to purchase five Chromebooks. Students can check out one of  the Chromebooks and a Wi-Fi hotspot from the library to practice English language  and digital skills at home. The students could use Chromebooks or their phones to access online instructional resources that supplement the class materials. 

This new partnership served almost 50 adults, all with diverse educational, professional, and cultural backgrounds. 

“I am humbled every day by our adult learners who motivate and inspire us with  their determination to achieve their goals,” said Friedrich.  

For example, Edna, from Mexico, is in Charleston with her husband and two young  daughters. She was a lawyer in Mexico, and although she had studied English in  college, she had never lived in an English-speaking environment. Edna wanted to  improve her English skills to help her daughter with her schoolwork and actively  participate in her daughter's education. She appreciated being able to connect with other students learning English and especially enjoyed learning new idioms that she could use in everyday conversations. Edna felt that she gained confidence in speaking so she was less afraid to ask for help in stores, chat informally with  neighbors, and make appointments by phone.  

Cesar, from Colombia, said his main goal in taking English classes was to improve his professional communication. He appreciated being able to practice speaking in  every class and learning more vocabulary and grammar. This was key to his  professional goals. Cesar said his colleagues and supervisors noticed an improvement as he progressed through the course. He was also able to  understand more in meetings and in conversations at work. He ultimately felt  confident enough to apply for and interview for higher-paying jobs with more  opportunities for advancement. 

“After more than 20 years teaching English as a second language, I am still  amazed by peoples' stories and lives,” added Kim Rodriguez, adult education  instructor. “Our adult students have so much grace and grit.”