Xiyin Liu came to the United States from China seven months ago knowing very little English. She began taking English classes through JVS Boston and learned the language, as well as how to handle herself in a job interview and other aspects of American workplace culture.
Last month she landed a job at an early education center. Monday morning she addressed a room full of people, including Mayor Bill Samaras and State Sen. Eileen Donoghue – in English.
Liu and fellow student Chimanlal Patel proudly told their stories in the Mayor’s Reception Room at Lowell City Hall as part of the launch of JVS Boston’s “Lowell Pay for Success English for Advancement” program, a partnership between JVS, Coalition for a Better Acre, Cambodian Mutual Assistance Association, and the International Institute of New England.
The program provides free English classes with a focus on the workplace, as well as job coaching, at CBA’s 450 Merrimack St. location. And because there is always a deeper Lowell connection — Jerry Rubin, President and CEO of JVS was CBA’s first executive director.
The city of Lowell has a proud history of welcoming immigrants and refugees from all over the world. Some are fleeing war and genocide in their homelands; others come seeking economic and educational opportunities to build a better life for themselves and their families.
The biggest barrier many face is not knowing how to speak or read English, an obstacle that limits their ability to secure employment or advance professionally, regardless of prior work experience.
Coalition for a Better Acre Executive Director Yun-Ju Choi came to the United States from Korea at 11–years-old, unable to speak a word of English. Her parents had a strong work ethic and worked long hours in difficult manual labor jobs to provide for their family.
On Monday, Choi said she wishes a program like “English for Advancement” had been available to her parents.
“My dad loved to learn, he was always studying,” she said. “They could have done so much more.”
Sen. Donoghue recalled growing up in Holyoke at a time when many people from Puerto Rico moved to the city. Being bilingual and bilingual education became very important. Donoghue earned a degree in bilingual education and gained an appreciation for how difficult it is to learn a new language, particularly for those also adapting to a new culture. Although she did not become teacher, she did use her ability to speak Spanish in her work as a lawyer and as a legislator.
Choi noted the residents of the Acre, a majority-Hispanic neighborhood, truly appreciate that when Donoghue visits she speaks to them in Spanish.
For more information about “English for Advancement” visit http://www.jvs-boston.org/EFA, call 978-452-7523 or attend an information session, held every Wednesday morning at 10:45 a.m. at 450 Merrimack Street in Lowell.