(Patrick D. Rosso/Boston.com/2012)
Adult students from the Action for Boston Community Development’s Parker Hill/Fenway ESOL classes now have a key tool to succeed after the group celebrated its graduation Friday afternoon.
The center marked the eight beginning ESOL and nine intermediate ESOL students as they received diplomas and thanked their teachers at the ceremony held in Mission Hill.
“Learning English is important to me because I was having a lot of problems with my job,” said Mercedes Urena, 53, a Dorchester resident and immigrant from the Dominican Republic. “I didn’t know English but now it is much better. I have to continue to learn so I can help my kids with their homework and so they can be proud of me.”
Of the 17 graduates Friday, the majority hailed from the Dominican Republic and said that being able to communicate with the world around them empowers them and makes them feel more connected to the community.
“I learned a lot in these classes,” said Virma Suarez, 43, a Dorchester resident and immigrant from the Dominican Republic. “I needed it for my children, for my job, for my doctor and now I have more opportunities and feel in control.”
The skills learned in the seven-month program are extremely important to becoming a citizen and active member of the community said Sharon Scott-Chandler, executive vice president of ABCD.
“It really helps decrease the isolation for many new comers,” said Scott-Chandler. “It opens up new doors to opportunities, education, and jobs and really allows them to be part of the American dream.”
Progress has been slow for some as they stumble to learn a new and complicated language while they balance a family and job but many said English isn’t just a convenience but a necessity.
“I had so much help and now I can understand and speak better,” said Niobe Sanquintin, 40, a Jamaica Plain resident and immigrant from the Dominican Republic. “My children couldn’t understand me before and now I can speak with them all the time. Now when I go to the doctor I can ask them questions. Now I am part of the community.”
The ABCD Parker Hill/Fenway center, along with the ESOL program, also offers students comprehensive immigration classes, teaching students everything they need to know and preparing them to become active and engaged citizens.
“They often don’t have the language skills to pass the test,” said Milly Arbaje- Thomas, director of ABCD. “We use a comprehensive approach to serving the immigrant population and try to provide them with an array of services so they can succeed and integrate.”
Now the students, with a new found confidence, can participate in the things that many native citizens take for granted like ordering food, speaking with their children’s teachers, and asking for directions.
“We are all about making sure your lives are the best they can be so you can grab a hold of this country and make the best of it,” John Drew, the president of ABCD told the graduates Friday afternoon.