After Nancy Cote became the new director of the ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) program in May, and four young adults joined her team, the student base grew from four to more than 20 individuals.
Cote said the program offers help to individuals who want to learn English. "That is what we are here to do," she said.
The students that are currently using the services of the ESOL program range in age from 18-46 years old. The jump in student interest, Cote said, was made possible because of the girls, due to them living within the Pink Citrus community.
Lluvia Rosales, Nancy Vergara-Ayala, Blanca Irais Bernal and Brenda Lopez, all volunteers with the Beacon of H.O.P.E. ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages), recently received a certification of completion for the Proliteracy America Volunteer Tutor Workshop through the Gulf Coast Literacy Council. Also pictured is ESOL Director Nancy Cote.
Lluvia Rosales, Nancy Vergara-Ayala, Blanca Irais Bernal and Brenda Lopez have recently helped in spreading the word about the ESOL program that is held every Tuesday from 6-8 p.m. at the Bokeelia Fire Station. They also recently received a certification of completion for the Proliteracy America Volunteer Tutor Workshop through the Gulf Coast Literacy Council.
Lopez, 18, graduated from high school in California this past May before moving to the island where she instantly began helping with the ESOL program a week after arriving. She said she wanted to get involved because it is a good way to help people.
"It is something that affects people and their livelihood," Lopez said, adding that learning English makes a difference for them and their children.
Every Monday Cote and her four helpers gather to prepare for the following day when they meet with their students.
There are four levels that students can enter in the ESOL program. Literacy, which teaches an individual how to read and write the English language, is the first level. The second and third include beginners intermediate and advanced intermediate levels and the fourth is advanced table, which allows students to speak English in a conversational table manner.
Lopez said she works with Bernal to help students who are placed in the advanced intermediate level. She said the level includes common phrases and words, as well as grammar skills and sentence structure.
Rosales, 17, a junior at Ida Baker High School, said ESOL provides unity for the two communities, English and Spanish, to come together. She said she knows how it feels when you do not understand what someone is saying when they are conversing in English.
Children are the interpreters, Rosales said for their parents, which can create obstacles. She said a parent will not always have their child with them to interpret what someone is saying into their native language.
During a Tuesday session, Rosales said she helps her students pronounce words, teaches them how to put words into a sentence structure, as well as understanding what a word means while reading articles and passages.
She said she encourages them to move on and not be afraid of asking questions.
With the ESOL program, Rosales said it provides progress in terms of the student speaking more English, which provides more opportunities for them.
"It's a chance to be independent," she said.
Rosales recently helped a group who works in landscaping and at plantations. She said she helped them ask for certain tools, along with helping them pronounce the word correctly.
"It gave them the courage and satisfaction of doing it by themselves," Rosales said.
Bernal, 17, a sophomore at Mariner High School, said she enjoys being involved in the ESOL program because she is helping people talk better and feel good about what they are saying. She said at times she will repeat what she is saying in English until her student understands what she is saying.
One of the exercises done during the Tuesday session, Bernal said, is question asking. She said she will ask three random questions that they have to respond to as much as they can. The student then asks Bernal three questions that she has to respond, too.
Vergara-Ayala, 15, a sophomore at Mariner High School, teaches lower intermediate, which includes how to create sentences using the English language, along with how to pronounce words. She said she also plays games with the students as well.
The sophomore said it is all about making the students feel comfortable.
One of those games includes charades. Vergara-Ayala said she will act out a vocabulary word and the students will show a card that reads what she did. The student then does charades with a vocabulary word as Vergara-Ayala guesses the word.
She said she enjoys ESOL because she is providing more opportunities for her students. With the new skills in speaking English, Vergara-Ayala said it will give them an opportunity to do better at their job or find a different job.
The desire to help others also stems from the difficulty she had as a child. Vergara-Ayala said when she needed help with homework, her mom had a difficult time assisting because she did not understand.
That has changed.
Vergara-Ayala said now her mother helps her niece with her homework and reads to her.
Anyone seeking assistance with the English language can show up during the session on Tuesday.