ParkSide Church, Waconia to offer ESL classes this fall

Based on the success of a pilot program held last spring, ESL classes are being offered this fall at ParkSide Church in Waconia. Classes start next week and currently, adults from Chile, El Salvador, Peru, Mexico, Equador, Puerto Rico and China have already registered. (Patriot photo by Todd Moen)

“You must learn! You cannot miss this opportunity. You must go!”
These are the words of encouragement that Flormira Gomez shares almost daily with her friends and neighbors. Her friends and neighbors are internationals who have come to the United States to work and hopefully live the “American Dream.” What Gomez deeply desires for each of them is the opportunity to learn English so they too can thrive, not just survive as productive members of our community.
Gomez, a public health nurse, and her husband, Freddy, a psychologist, recently moved to Waconia from Peru.
But because they did not speak English, they were unable to secure employment in their fields of training and expertise. Gomez is working hard to change that. She has attended ESL (English as a Second Language) classes previously, but they were in Chaska and Shakopee.
Transportation became an issue and she was unable to continue. Now, she daily sets aside time to watch a children’s program on TV where she can listen carefully and repeat over and over again the new words she hears. She also volunteers at a daycare program and at her church where she can practice speaking English.
“Life is hard when you can’t call and make a doctor’s appointment or help your child with a problem at school because you don’t speak English,” she explained. “I know a lot of people like that. They can’t have a good life because they can’t communicate.”
ParkSide Church of Waconia is hoping to help Gomez and her friends work toward that good life.
Last spring, members of Parkside Church ran a pilot ESL program for six weeks. They offered English classes on Monday nights, splitting the classes into three proficiency levels. Eighteen people registered and were tested for their ability to understand, speak and read English. They were then placed in their appropriate class for instruction.
An average of 15 English language learners attended each week. Students from four countries were represented: Peru, Ecuador, Mexico and El Salvador. Because of the great interest and excitement generated from the pilot program, ParkSide Church is expanding its ESL program this year and will be able to handle up to 20 students in each of the three classes. Weekly classes will run on Monday nights throughout the school year. New students from Puerto Rico, Chile and China have already signed up to attend.
From the experience gained last spring, ParkSide has identified another need they’re excited to meet. Many of the adult students in the pilot program were husband and wife, with children who needed care during classes.
So when classes start up again this fall, ParkSide will be offering a children’s program. The babies and toddlers will hear English spoken and have the opportunity to start putting English words and phrases together with what they are experiencing as they play. The older children will have opportunities to hear Bible stories, play games and have a quiet time and place to study. Tutors will be available to help with homework if needed.
The ESL program is led by Antonio and Cassie Jimenez, ParkSide attendees. Antonio’s first language is Spanish and he learned English as a second language in elementary school in Wisconsin. Cassie teaches ESL to Waconia School District children and brings a bachelor’s degree and extensive experience in her field.
Randy Burg, Lead Pastor of ParkSide is thrilled with this exciting new service to the Waconia community.
“Christ himself came to serve His creation, and that’s the heart the ParkSide community,” he said. “We’re here to serve and improve the quality of life of the people of Waconia and beyond, and ESL adds an exciting new dimension to our efforts.”
To learn more, contact Antonio at (920) 215-1573.