By JESIKA MILLANO
AL DIA TODAY
PALM BAY — Mastering English is an important part to U.S. immigrants fully integrating into their new country.
It also opens many doors into the workforce.
That is the reason why the English Language Integration Program (ELI) was started. The ELI program is a tool that offers personalized help in learning the new language through Brevard Public Schools (BPS) instructors.
The program, which is financed by the state of Florida, began in August 2014 through an alliance with Brevard Public Schools management and the Brevard Hispanic Center, a nonprofit organization where the classes are taught.
The Hispanic Center, located at 4670 Babcock St. in Palm Bay, opened its doors in February 2013 as a one-stop shop for Hispanics seeking to learn the skills needed to integrate themselves into the community. It also connects Hispanics with resources, people, and services in a variety of areas such as education, housing, family resources, immigration, job placement, and economic empowerment.
Erika Morris, a native of Cali, Colombia, is a teacher with the ELI program.
She teaches many immigrants who have professional backgrounds and could be working in far better jobs if not for the language barrier.
“Although they have the education, they lack the English language skills,” Morris said.
One of the program’s objectives is to help people figure out what steps they need to take to find employment in their new country. Another step is helping them learn to communicate effectively with their potential employers.
“Many people want to know about the process of adapting to the culture. We teach them what they will need to know in an interview and prepare them to communicate effectively in the English language,” she explained.
Morris said the ELI program is geared toward people aged 16 or older. Further requirements depend on the program of their interest.
Once enrolled, students are briefed on the necessary requirements. The cost is $30 per semester and the number of students is not specific.
“The schedule varies according to the needs of the student, but basically there are two shifts: day and night, Monday through Friday. The classes are, on average, about four months long,” said Morris, who has been teaching English classes for 30 years.
In that time, she has English in Boston, Massachusetts; Palm Beach, Florida; and Brevard County.
With all of her experience, she has discovered a common denominator underlying all of her work, which is “the satisfaction of seeing all of my students meeting their goals and putting into action the knowledge that they gained from my classes,” she said.
One of the unique characteristics of the program is that it is for everyone who wants to learn English, regardless of their immigration status.
“The purpose of the program is that anyone who wants to learn the language, and is willing to put in the necessary time to participate in the different programs, will benefit greatly from it,” Morris said.
The number of teachers depends on the need of the different programs, she added.
For more information about the ELI program, please contact Brevard Public Schools Adult Education Program at (321) 952-5914 or visit www.brevardschools.org.