SOURCE: ALICIA CATTONI FOR VENTURA FAMILY YMCA
The Ventura Family YMCA is preparing for another session of free English as a Second Language classes at their facility.
The classes run from Sept. 12 through Oct. 17 and coincide with Hispanic Heritage Month.
The Y’s ESL classes are intended for beginner and intermediate participants and are taught by a certified ESL instructor, complete with educational booklets. Child care is also provided on site and at no cost while the classes are being taught.
The Y’s ESL classes are made possible through a grant provided by the YUSA’s Hispanic/Latino Initiative, with an aim to “ensure access, inclusion and engagement” for all.
The Ventura Y is going into the Hispanic/Latino communities where there is a need and desire for English lessons to help foster a sense of growth within the community.
Brian Stevens, the Y’s Membership Director and Mayra DeLeon, the Y’s Member Relations Coordinator, are both leading this initiative.
DeLeon is very passionate about the ESL program because this is something she has personally experienced. Both of her parents are from Mexico and immigrated here to make a better life for both of her sisters and themselves.
DeLeon explains how language is one element that migrants face.
“Their (her parents) language barriers and even my own, for sure, affected my life. My first language was Spanish. Thankfully, I had my older sisters to help me, but I remember English being a challenge when I started school,” she said. “Growing up learning a different language might have helped me be a better learner though, because I’ve always been afraid of seeming incompetent. So, growing up, I tried working twice as hard because I wanted to understand what everyone was talking about.”
DeLeon’s experiences are reflective of the 54 million people of Hispanic origin as estimated by the U.S. Census Bureau, which is about 17 percent of the nation’s total population and is estimated to grow to 28 percent by 2050.
This makes people of Hispanic origin the nation’s largest ethnic minority, and the Ventura Y estimates that 33 percent of its members are of Hispanic/Latino origin, with many families facing the same language barriers that DeLeon faced.
The Ventura Y aims to be a resource to help resolve problems within its hometown and to nurture positive growth.
It is more than just a gym — it is a charitable non-profit that has the ability to help change lives, and the Y’s ESL program is only one example.
Stevens expresses how they have been continually reaching out into the community, but expresses a little discouragement at the low number of registrants.
“I wish more people knew about this program,” he said. “I mean, it’s free! If transportation is a concern, we have two bus stops within a block of us and the main hub over at the Pacific View Mall.”
For more information about the Y’s ESL Program, please contact Mayra DeLeon by email at [email protected] or by calling 805.642.2131 x12.
To learn more about donating to the Y, please contact Executive Director Amy Bailey Jurewicz by email at [email protected] or by calling 805.642.2131, x24.
— Alicia Cattoni represents the Ventura Family YMCA.