Many people in the area remember hearing stories of how their parents came to this country. How they could not speak the new language. Often their children learned English faster and became interpreters for their parents. But that is difficult for a kid, especially when it comes to calling in sick to school or going to a doctor’s office.
Now, thanks to a special grant, parents whose primary language is not English can take a seven-week course to learn some basics.
The funding for the classes comes from Title 3 federal funding that is dispersed by the state, according to Catherine DelVento, grants coordinator for the Winthrop public schools. The $21,000 grant pays for three parent ambassadors who teach the class. As part of the grant there is also a family engagement element, professional development for staff to learn about different cultures and childcare for the parents while they take class.
Students can learn not only language but cultural nuances like signing a child up for Little League, accessing community resources and being able to find help when needed. All agreed that parent-teacher conferences at their children’s school is difficult. It’s also hard to enjoy a sports activity or school program because of the language barrier.
Instructors Fabiola Oliveria, a native of Brazil; Sandra Giraldo, native of Columbia, know what it’s like. She learned English through her church in Somerville where she is also a chaplin.
“Winthrop has a lot to offer and they (newcomers) tend to stick to their own,” Oliveria said. “This is something to get the community together.”