Working on writing skills by creating resumes, Sara Stuart, left, teaches an advanced English for Speakers of Other Languages class on July 7 in Everett. The Casino Road Adult Education Academy is a partnership of YMCA, Goodwill and Edmonds Community College. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Working on writing skills by creating resumes, Sara Stuart, left, teaches an advanced English for Speakers of Other Languages class on July 7 in Everett. The Casino Road Adult Education Academy is a partnership of YMCA, Goodwill and Edmonds Community College. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Casino Road adult academy helps immigrants learn English

This is part of The Daily Herald’s annual report on charity in Snohomish County. Complete list of stories

EVERETT — It looked like fun and games. The women, nearly a dozen of them, had words pinned to their backs. “Coffee.” “Bear.” “Tire.” “Toothbrush.” “Cup.” “Pencil.” “Bee.”

Their assignment was to guess the words by quizzing each other — in English.

“You must ask yes or no questions,” said Sara Stuart, who teaches English for Speakers of Other Languages. Stuart works for Seattle Goodwill. On a morning in early July, she gave students some examples of suitable questions: “Is it an animal?” “Is it is a food?” “Is it big?”

Working with partners, the women made their queries. They laughed as they struggled with clues, and helped each other in guessing their words. Even the teacher, who had the word “table” on her back, was in on the exercise. “Is mine a thing?” Stuart asked.

What looked like fun was an important learning opportunity provided by the Casino Road Adult Education Academy. The YMCA of Snohomish County, Seattle Goodwill and Edmonds Community College are collaborators on the recently formed coalition.

For more than three years, the Y and Seattle Goodwill have teamed up to provide an eight-week class boosting language skills and preparing students for work or more education. The college joined the partnership earlier this year.

The nonprofit academy, which launched free classes in April, is housed in the Children’s Village complex just west of Evergreen Way on Everett’s Casino Road. It provides adult basic education, case management services, child care and other programs to help low-income people and those isolated by language barriers and other issues.

The Spanish-speaking women guessing words recently were enrolled in an English as a second language class offered Tuesday and Thursday mornings by the academy. On Mondays and Wednesdays, there are classes in GED preparation, which for many is a step toward further education.

At the end of the word game, Stuart instructed her students in finer points of English. Instead of asking “Is small?” as one might in Spanish, the teacher told her pupils that “Is it small?” is correct, with “it” meaning the object of the question.

“Everyone sounded good, and I didn’t hear too much Spanish,” Stuart told her class.

In a previous class, students listened as an employment specialist explained the need for a resume, and what job seekers should include on one. For an assignment during class, Stuart had them write down skills and work experiences that could be included on their resumes. As examples, Stuart told students they could use a background in farm work or selling in a market.

“It does not have to be an official job,” she said, then added that students could also include languages they speak. “You’re all parents, so of course you have worked with children before,” she added.

In the United States, Stuart instructed them, job seekers should not include a photo, their age or gender. “That’s to make sure employers do not discriminate,” she said.

Stuart said many of her students also attend the GED class taught by a YMCA volunteer. Edmonds Community College also offers an English as a second language class through the academy.

“A lot of my students weren’t able to finish school in their home countries. They had to go to work,” Stuart said.

The long-term goal is for students to get a good start on English instruction at Casino Road, then continue with adult basic education through EdCC. “Instructors in the classroom see this as a pathway,” Stuart said.

“The most important thing about this program is the community and family focus. Many of the families live on Casino, and most have children who attend elementary school a couple blocks down,” Stuart said. “We offer child care, and pretty much every one of my students has used that.”

Some of the women said improved English will be the key to their career goals.

Margarita Garcia said that in Mexico she worked in accounting. Here, she has volunteered in her children’s classrooms. “My goal is working in accounting,” the Everett woman said.

“My goal is to speak better English,” said Ricarda de la Luz, who came here from Mexico 11 years ago. She is also taking the GED course through the academy. In Mexico, she said, she worked as a cashier, owned a mini market, and was secretary of her church group.

Claudia Torres, a mother of two who has been in the Everett area about a year, said her understanding of English is better than her ability to speak it. The academy is helping her bridge that gap.

Children’s Village is also the site of a federally funded preschool. “It’s a gathering place, a one-stop shop,” Stuart said. Many adult academy students find the program via word of mouth. “It helps a lot that we’re located in the youth center,” Stuart said.

Some students have been in the Everett area for years. Early on, they learned enough English to manage.

“Surviving isn’t what they want,” Stuart said. “They want to do more than survive.”

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com.

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