ESL programs aim to prepare Hispanics for college studies

Red Bank language
center, Brookdale
align curriculums

By gloria stravelli
Staff Writer

Red Bank language
center, Brookdale
align curriculums
By gloria stravelli
Staff Writer

GLORIA STRAVELLI Susana Baumann, executive director of the Red Bank Language and Cultural Center, has developed a new series of ESL classes aimed at preparing Hispanics for college-level studies.GLORIA STRAVELLI Susana Baumann, executive director of the Red Bank Language and Cultural Center, has developed a new series of ESL classes aimed at preparing Hispanics for college-level studies.

RED BANK — The Red Bank Language and Cultural Center and Brookdale Community College are working in tandem to ensure that a lack of English-language skills doesn’t block Hispanics from higher education or career advancement.

The RBLCC, which serves immigrants from central and South America, and Brookdale are working to align their ESL programs to help Hispanics transition into college studies.

The goal of the collaboration is to equip students who take ESL classes at the center to meet ESL competency and skills requirements for placement in entry-level college courses at the Lincroft-based community college.

"We have an informal relationship," said Nancy Kegelman, interim dean of academic affairs at Brookdale, of ongoing discussions with Susana Baumann, director of the Red Bank Language and Cultural Center.

"We have formed a working partnership aimed at helping Hispanic students achieve the dream of higher education," said Baumann.

"We are looking to align the Red Bank Language and Cultural Center curriculum with Brookdale’s," Kegelman explained. "We want to ensure that the skills taught and the learning objectives for courses are the same. We want stu­dents to be able to finish courses at the center and pass Brookdale’s tests.

"We’re happy to work with the RBLCC," she added, noting that the center is more accessible to its clients than ESL classes offered by BCC at the main campus and a learning center in Long Branch.

Brookdale currently offers ESL test­ing at high schools and will begin to of­fer on-site testing at the RBLCC, located at 60 Maple Ave., she added.

According to Kegelman, U.S. Census data shows that the Hispanic population in Red Bank was 2,027 in 2000. That made Red Bank sixth in the county, be­hind Long Branch, Freehold, Asbury Park, Howell and Middletown, in terms of the size of its Hispanic population.

In 2000, Hispanics accounted for 38,175, or 6.2 percent, of the county’s total population of 615,301, she said, adding that the size of the county’s His­panic population continues to grow.

Like all students entering Brookdale, immigrants from non-English speaking countries are tested for proficiency in verbal and written English and in basic skills like reading, writing and analyti­cal math.

Basic skills tests assess whether candidates have the skills necessary to be successful in college-level courses and determines placement in appropri­ate courses, Kegelman explained.

Working with Brookdale, Baumann has designed the center’s ESL curricu­lum to ensure that students who com­plete the courses will be able to meet the college’s requirements, she said.

According to Baumann, while many immigrants have high school and col­lege degrees and professional experi­ence in their countries of origin, lack of English skills can negate their achieve­ment.

"Here, they encounter a language barrier, and they get stuck in jobs that have little to do with their background and education, just to be able to sur­vive," she said.

To date, ESL classes offered at the center have been geared to giving im­migrants basic "survival skills," said Baumann, who also is publisher of Periódico Latino!, a bilingual, bimonthly newspaper.

"While the focus in adult ESL pro­grams for basic life skills is on commu­nication about work, home and commu­nity interaction, in academic programs students must concentrate on improve­ment of conceptual and critical think­ing, language accuracy, extensive read­ing and writing," she said. "These are different from our regular curricula."

In addition, the center’s new ESL programs will also acclimate students to specific career areas, she said.

"The idea is to generate transitional ESL programs at our center that will al­low students to get into the academic environment within a certain specialty," she said. "When they show up at Brook­dale, they will already have a sense of what career they want to get into and will be familiar with a specific vocabu­lary."

Representatives of Brookdale will visit the Red Bank Language and Cul­tural Center during registration for the fall semester and discuss job opportuni­ties and expectations in fields in which Hispanics are employed, such as culi­nary arts, nursing, automotive, computer science and horticulture, and will ex­plain the process of obtaining financial aid, Kegelman said.

"They will discuss programs for an associate’s degree," she said. "It will give these students a long-term goal to drive toward and let them know once they get through the ESL part, they can start taking courses for their advance­ment.

"We’re trying to live up to our mid­dle name, ‘community,’ to live up to our commitment," she said. "Whatever we can do to be helpful so that higher edu­cation is advanced in Monmouth County."

Brookdale’s ESL program comprises two 15-week semesters of English stud­ies. At the RBLCC, the pace is slower, with six levels of ESL classes offered in 12-week sessions. The entire curriculum can be completed in two years.

To make them accessible to students who work, daily classes at the RBLCC will be offered in both morning and evening sessions. Classes will be lim­ited to 10-12 students, Baumann said.

She said the center is still develop­ing a tuition structure for the classes and is working on a source for financial aid for students.

Most ESL classes are three credits at Brookdale, where tuition for the fall semester is $83.75 per credit.

To introduce the new program, The Red Bank Language and Cultural Cen­ter will hold an open house, with mem­bers of the Brookdale faculty present, Sept. 9, 6:30-8:30 p.m. and Sept. 12, 10 a.m. to noon. Registration for the RBLCC classes will run from Aug. 25-Sept. 13, and classes will begin Sept. 15.

For more information about the tran­sitional ESL program, call the Red Bank Language and Cultural Center at (732) 576-1890.