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New Saturday class at BCCC boosts number of new English learners

The enthusiasm of a new instructor in English Language Acquisition has doubled enrollment over the last few months. Francisco Corichi Jimenez-Garrido recently started teaching the classes at Beaufort County Community College and his energy, combined with the class being offered on Saturdays for the first time, have brought many new faces to the classes, quickly outgrowing his original classroom.

BCCC offers several opportunities for new English speakers, including English Language Acquisition (ELA), offered during the day on Monday through Thursday, in the evenings on Tuesday and Thursday as well as on Saturday. At the Hyde County Davis Center, classes are offered on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings. All of these classes are free.

Corichi has a relentless spirit, never pausing for a moment in the classroom. He also works for Vidant Medical Center as a medical interpreter and worked previously at Lenoir Community College teaching ELA. He spent 20 years as the English as a Second Language (ESL) coordinator with Lenoir County Schools for the middle and high schools.

“We have five dogs, and the house is basically theirs because we’re never there at all,” said Corichi. “My wife still works, and I still work. I will continue to work for the rest of my life. There’s no way in the world I could not be doing anything.”

The new Saturday class has benefitted families who work during the week. Some of the students will volunteer to pick others up who cannot drive. Everyone from the weeknight classes also attends the Saturday class.

“It is a survival skill. You don’t speak the language; you don’t eat, you don’t work,” said Corichi. “They also have children, so they need to be able to help their children. Some of them need to deal with financial situations to send money to their families. The bottom line is no matter what the reason, it is about survival.”

Learning the language can help people navigate contracts, the school system, hospitals and legal documents.

“About half of our students are here temporarily to work, and about half intend to become citizens,” according to Penelope Radcliffe, director of College & Career Readiness, the program that includes English language acquisition and high school equivalency classes. “They want to be able to speak the language enough to succeed at work.”

Students coming into the class take the CASAS, a placement test to help see their level of English proficiency. Students are placed in beginning and intermediate levels based on their existing skills.

College & Career Readiness also offers a citizen preparation class on Wednesday during the day for people who are going through the naturalization process. New citizens are required to take rigorous tests on civics, government, history, geography, reading and writing. About half of the students enrolled in ELA will also take the citizenship class.

Additionally, some of the students will go on to take GED classes after getting through beginning ELA classes. Currently there are three students who are taking both. The College & Career Readiness program also offers human resource development classes, including interview skills, income maintenance worker training and computer skills. All of these classes are free to qualifying individuals. The program tries to take students as far as they want to go in their training and education.

Students who attend the class for 12 hours are considered enrolled in an educational program, which meets one of the stipulations of the DACA (Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals) program. A December 2020 court ruling returned many of the original stipulations of the program and that has prompted new interest in DACA and in English proficiency.

Students can begin classes at any time. To get started with any of the free College & Career Readiness classes, contact Penelope Radcliffe at 252-940-6298 or Penelope.radcliffe@beaufortccc.edu.

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