Imagine living in a country where you cannot communicate with your children’s educators, doctors, and/or caretakers due to a language barrier. How would you feel?
According to the 2017 Census, 2.6 million New Jersey residents and 30.2% of households in Somerset County speak a language other than English at home. These statistics demonstrate the need for English as a Second Language (ESL) education.
Yuliana Ballestero, a Costa Rica native and Bridgewater resident, is one of those individuals, who primarily speaks Spanish at home.
“I wanted to start to learn English to be able to communicate with my children’s teachers and doctors,” said Ballestro, a mother of two.
Ballestro came across an advertisement for ESL instruction from Literacy Volunteers of Somerset County (LVSC) in a local newspaper. The organization paired her with tutor Ann Beth Constad, a retired language therapist.
“My passion has always been language and literacy,” said Constad. “I thought it would be wonderful to give back to the community and put my skills to use with adults.”
The pair meets for 90 minutes a week at SCLSNJ’s Bridgewater Library branch, located at 1 Vogt Drive in Bridgewater. The Library provides an ideal location for tutoring sessions by offering a flexible and convenient space with multiple resources.
Ballestro, who started learning English in November, has made great strides in her communication skills. She is able to pick things up quickly and carry short conversations in English with the help of Constad, LVSC, and the Library’s resources. Like many ESL students, Ballestro has a goal in mind. She desires to open a car repair business with her husband where she will work as the secretary – answering phones and helping customers.
“As much as a student learns, the tutor learns more. It’s a wonderful feeling knowing that I am helping someone meet their goals and dreams,” said Constad.
In the past year, LVSC has provided 307 adults weekly tutoring from 187 volunteer tutors. Tutors have provided more than 3,600 hours of free tutoring through English conversation groups, one-on-one tutoring sessions, and citizenship classes.
“LVSC offers a unique opportunity for volunteers to truly make a difference in our community,” said Susan Engelstein, LVSC’s program manager. “Through weekly meetings, our tutors work with their students on real-life, achievable goals, whether it is speaking to a child’s teacher or to a doctor, obtaining a driver’s license, or practicing for a job interview. Tutors provide encouragement, friendship and literacy instruction, forging lasting bonds with their students.”
Share your knowledge and connect with community members by becoming a literacy tutor.
January 23 and 30; February 6, 13, and 20; 6-9 p.m.
PeopleCare Center, located at 120 Finderne Ave. in Bridgewater
Practice speaking English in a friendly setting. Basic English skills required.
SCLSNJ’s Warren Twp. Library branch, located at 42 Mountain Blvd. in Warren Twp.
Mondays, 10-11:30 a.m.
SCLSNJ’s Somerville Library branch, located at 35 West End Ave. in Somerville
Mondays, 6:30-8 p.m. and Thursdays, 10-11:30 a.m.
SCLSNJ’s North Plainfield Memorial Library branch, located at 6 Rockview Ave. in North Plainfield
Mondays, 7-8:30 p.m.
SCLSNJ’s Hillsborough Library branch, located at 379 South Branch Rd. in Hillsborough
Mondays, 7-8:30 p.m. and Wednesdays, 10-11:30 a.m.
SCLSNJ’s Bound Brook Memorial Library branch, located at 402 E High St. in Bound Brook
Tuesdays, 12:30-2 p.m. and Wednesdays, 7-8:30 p.m.
SCLSNJ’s Bridgewater Library branch, located at 1 Vogt Dr. in Bridgewater
Wednesdays, 10-11:30 a.m.
SCLSNJ’s Manville Library branch, located at 100 South 10th Ave. in Manville
Thursdays, 1-2.30 p.m. and 6:30-8 p.m.
SCLSNJ’s Mary Jacobs Memorial Library branch, located at 64 Washington St. in Rocky Hill
Fridays, 12-1:30 p.m.
For more information: SCLSNJ.org