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The Immigrant Experience

Getting on the plane in Ismir, Turkey was probably the most disorienting experience I’ve had in travel. No one spoke a lick of English it seemed, and my Turkish was (and still is) limited to “Tukje yok” which means “I don’t speak Turkish” and “merhaba”- which means “hello.” (I can’t say goodbye.) While it was a wonderful trip full of truly exotic experiences, I think of that brief glimpse into foreigner-status when I think of the parents in our English Language Classes for Immigrant Parents.

The classes, offered to parents of Putnam City students, are taught at three different sites this year, and provide an enriching multi-faceted curriculum that creates a ripple effect in our community. During the academic year, these parents meet twice weekly for a couple hours each session to speak, write, and read English based upon their ability. Incoming students are evaluated and sent to a class level appropriate to their current fluency where they work with certified teachers to increase their language acquisition. The curriculum not only teaches the mechanics of English, it also teaches civics and financial literacy.

Having observed the classes’ graduation last year, I have seen how excited they are to work together and better their English, and what I hear from participants is touching. These parents have gotten promotions, raises and even better jobs thanks to their English fluency. Parents are more comfortable helping their children with homework, and coming to our schools for community events and parent teacher meetings. That is why we do it- because parents who are comfortable with English will be able to make a deeper impact on their child’s learning. But having those economic and citizenship benefits only deepens our appreciation of this program and how it is changing lives in Putnam City.

As a history teacher, I love that these immigrant families are getting training in what it means to be an American, and I am so proud that the Putnam City Foundation is helping to make better citizens of not only our children, but their parents as well.

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