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Free English Classes Catering To Adults

By Debbie Barr | Special to the Sentinel

September 14, 2003
Copyright ©2003 Gale Group Inc. All rights reserved.

KISSIMMEE -- State Rep. John Quinones, R-Kissimmee, said that when he came stateside from Puerto Rico in 1979 he was faced with the same language barrier many Hispanics are faced with in Central Florida today.

In order to help Hispanics living in Osceola gain English skills as well as enter the labor force, Quinones has joined with Workforce Central Florida, the Osceola County school district and the County Commission to create a free English for Speakers of Other Languages -- ESOL -- lab in Central Florida, dubbed Arriba! Workforce.

"My motivation is to provide an opportunity for those who have a language barrier to first get across that barrier and to merge into the work force," Quinones said.

Quinones, whose District 49 seat covers parts of northern Osceola County and southeast Orange County, will announce the opening of the lab at a ceremony at 5 p.m. Monday at Workforce Central Florida's One Stop Career Center at U.S. Highway 192 and John Young Parkway.

A student registration-orientation session will launch the opening of the lab. Enrollment is flexible, so that students can register to join the class at any time afterward. The course, which has space for 30 Osceola residents, will be from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Monday and Wednesday.

Because fluency in English goes hand-in-hand with success in school and in the job market, Quinones said priority for registration will be given to single parents who have a child in the Osceola school system or to those seeking employment or a higher-paying job.

The course instructor, Alex Desea, from Osceola's Professional and Technical High School, will provide a curriculum for students that will be tailored to participants' English-language skills. The course will cover the basics of speaking English as well as the academics of the language so that eventually parents can help their children with schoolwork.

Rosa Alvarez, legislative secretary in Quinones' office, said children from families who do not speak English at home often do not get academic reinforcement in English at home. Parents who are holding down two to three jobs just to make ends meet may have more time to help their kids with schoolwork if they obtain a single higher paying job, she said. Arriba! Workforce was created to help parents do both, she said.

"We need to help our parents in order to help our children," Alvarez said.

Alvarez noted that arriba means "to lift up" in Spanish. The goal of Arriba! Workforce is to bring those with a language barrier up in terms of jobs and child education.

"I think it's the perfect name because that's what we're trying to do," she said.

A drivers license or motor-vehicle ID and a Social Security card are required to register for the course. In addition, a $10 registration fee for testing and evaluation is requested from those who can afford it, but Sprint has donated funds to cover the registration fee for those who cannot.

Because this will be an ongoing class, Quinones said that he hopes to continue sponsorship by Sprint or other local businesses in the future.

"We're very excited," he said. "I think it's going to really benefit the community."

For registration information, call Mireya Mas at 407-343-4900.

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