Local News

ESL Classes Filling Up at Wake Tech

Posted December 2, 1997 12:00 a.m. EST

— Millions of immigrants move into our country every year with hopes of creating a new life. The Triangle's reputation as a land of opportunity is drawing a lot of those immigrants here. But before they join the workforce, many of our newest neighbors have to learn to speak English. That's where Wake Technical Community College gets involved.

The Triangle has many attractions for foreigners, chief among them are jobs at Research Triangle Park. Many people in a group of foreign students at Wake Tech are in the Raleigh-Durham area because their spouses have jobs at foreign-owned companies in the park.

Tali Bernstein arrived here last month from Jerusalem, Israel. Now she's learning how to speak the language.

"People are very polite here, very lovely," Bernstein says. "They're all the time trying to help you."

Here at Wake Tech, more than 1400 foreign students are enrolled in classes to learn English as a second language (ESL). Others will move on to degree tracks at the school. It's a sure indication of just how popular the Triangle has become internationally.

Foreigners are the fastest growing population among students at Wake Tech. The school offers more than just English classes. Students are taken on field trips to learn more about the area.

"I think there's a great potential for students, teachers and community," explains ESL Coordinator Edith Cooper. "Our goal is to help them be apart of the community, and I think it enriches our community greatly."

Vietnam refugee Thuan Phan's life has greatly improved since coming to America. He wants to settle down here, and hopes to buy a gas station someday.

Right now the ESL classes are free. As the demand increases, the school will look for more space and more funding to continue the program.