Tenth’s Mercy Commission includes the South Philadelphia Immigrant Committee, which oversees at the Kirkbride School on S. 7th Street an ESL outreach program to the parent community. The majority of its students receive English language services. Several years ago, one of its teachers, Yoon Byun, approached Enrique Leal(Mercy Minister) about offering an ESL program to the parents of the students.
Parents, from this community–a mix of Mexican, Central American, and Vietnamese immigrants,–have a heartfelt incentive to learn English. They want to be a part of their children’s education, and learning English is one of the means to do so. The parent program takes place on Tuesdays from 3:15-5:00. Volunteer teachers from nearby Christ Church and Tenth Church staff the adults’ ESL program and the concurrent children’s homework programs. Both programs are necessary for this outreach.
We take our program seriously. When we began in February 2019, all of our volunteers taught from the online program, ESL Library. In the fall of that year, we purchased two levels of the curriculum, Side by Side (Pearson), and we look forward to providing additional published resources. The adults are avid learners; they converse with their teachers and one another (a strategic ESL practice), as well as tackling their homework. Weekly lessons are characterized by many smiles and much laughter.
In the spring of 2020, two adult English language learners won our contest for naming the onsite ESL program. Submissions were numerous and included the following words: speak, learn English, class, program, and South Philly. We presented gifts of chocolates to Margarita and Reyna who won for naming the program S.P.E.A.K (South Philadelphia English at Kirkbride).
We, teachers, are drawn to this outreach for a variety of reasons. When I served at City Center Academy, I was intrigued by the international students from the Curtis Institute who attended our classes. Working with their handheld dictionary devices, many performed exceptionally well in their CCA classes. As a result, I later added ESL to my Pennsylvania teaching certificate. Through the years of teaching ESL to internationals, the Lord has given me a heart for immigrants who have come so far and have given up so much.
The Kirkbride School setting is an outreach provision for us. However, because we are in a public school setting during school hours we are not permitted to include the Bible. Yet, other outreach efforts have resulted in our adults and their families going to Tenth Church for a Cinco de Mayo celebration, Internationals Outreach Christmas dinner, and the memorial service for Paul Pisani, who was a fall 2020 volunteer teacher at Kirkbride. So we’re building friendships as we sort through ways to share with our adults what is our ultimate hope in the Lord.
Our building friendships with our adults was cut short by the March 2020 closure of schools due to the pandemic; however, we are now providing leveled ESL online classes to our adult students. And with classes resumed, opportunities come to instill hope by sharing our faith through discussing passages from the Bible, praying with our adults, and providing gift cards for groceries to the SPEAK community.