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Project Highlights: A Coordinator’s Perspective

Guest post by Arlen Gargagliano
Westchester Community College Instructor and NY Coordinator for Skills and Opportunity for the New American Workforce

Susan Bells class

“Teacher, we want to continue!”

This, one of my favorite songs, was sung by many of our students, participants in Skills and Opportunity for the New American Workforce—and why wouldn’t it be? Although the past 12 weeks seemed to just fly by, the time spent together by our teachers and students in the New York area was clearly a wonderful investment. We should all be so proud of each other!

In thinking back on the past weeks, I can’t help but smile. As the Westchester Community College (WCC)/NY-based coordinator, in addition to sorting out logistics, instructor training and support, and data collection, I had the pleasure of visiting with our students on several occasions—ranging from quick early-morning hellos, and applauding them for making their way to school through bad weather and public transport to attend their weekly, 2-and-a-half hours class, to leading them over to the computer lab, and getting them acquainted with online learning.

From my perspective, there were several highlights of this program:

  1.  Seeing how the more advanced students—and we had some VERY advanced students—helped their classmates;
  2.  Assisting students to fulfill not only their dreams of communicating in English, but also taking classes at a community college;
  3. Watching the groups bond with each other, helping and supporting one another;
  4. Witnessing the first-time computer users start to get a feel for technology, which can help them in their professional and personal lives; and
  5. Observing the progress and boost in confidence in so many of our students!

I also had the wonderful opportunity to meet a great group of teachers—at WCC, but also at our two other instruction partners in the New York metro area, LaGuardia Community College and Bergen County Technical Schools. Flexibleintuitive, and devoted are just three of the adjectives I’d use to describe this group of educators. These teachers saw the strong and weak points of their groups, and built on the existing curriculum—using their own “bag of tricks” —to create positive, dynamic and productive learning environments.

This has been an incredible team effort, and thanks to the National Immigration Forum’s leadership, the Walmart Foundation, profound expertise from Miami Dade College and CCCIE, and our local academic partners— we can now all sing. Yes, let’s continue!

For more student profiles and testimonials on Skills and Opportunity for the New American Workforce, please click here.

Skills and Opportunity for the New American Workforce is a project of the National Immigration Forum, funded by the Walmart Foundation, in partnership with Miami Dade College and the Community College Consortium for Immigrant Education.

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