Additional beginner class will be offered this fall.
In the spring of 2022, Berkshire Community College (BCC) enrolled 20 Afghan evacuees in a pilot program designed to teach them English and help assimilate them into American life. The program, which offered free morning and evening classes at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Pittsfield as well as asynchronous instruction, met with success. Sixteen of the 20 students, or 80%, completed the course, and more than half the students were employed at local businesses. Those students who did not complete the course had found jobs, and the class schedule conflicted with their work schedule, according to Ana Suffish, director of the BCC Adult Learning Program.
"All the students improved their English skills, as evidenced not only by assessments, but also by their confidence levels. Through class, they developed a sense of community and a support network with each other," Suffish said. "Learning English is an important factor in successfully integrating into a new community, but creating a support network and building relationships is equally important."
BCC also sponsored a free summer experiential learning class for eight Afghan women, who were introduced to local cultural and recreational activities including the Norman Rockwell Museum, Canoe Meadows, Magic Wings, Mount Greylock and Burbank Park at Onota Lake. Children joined on occasion. "This was a great opportunity for the women to practice their English and learn about some Berkshires highlights," Suffish said.
This fall, BCC will offer one class for beginner students. Class space is limited and is filled on a first-come, first-served basis. Classes and all materials are free, and there are no eligibility requirements.
Daycare for children ages five and under will be provided by CORI-checked volunteers from Jewish Family Services of Western Massachusetts.
Intermediate and advanced students may enroll in the Department of Secondary Education's free English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) classes, which are offered in several locations across the Commonwealth.
Evacuees wishing to enroll in classes or volunteers who would like to assist with the program may call Ana Suffish at 413- 236-5260 or email email@example.com for more information.