Connecting Students to Community Through Books

September 6, 2016

A vital program to help people learn the basic skills they need to work, live, and connect with the community has received a much-needed financial boost. US Bancorp Foundation and two, local Walmart stores selected the College of Western Idaho (CWI) Foundation to receive grants that support CWI’s English as a Second Language (ESL) Book Project.

Learning in Action

Four days a week, the sounds of people who speak several different languages fill the halls at CWI’s Ada County Campus Mallard Building. In one classroom, students are learning how to break down job descriptions and applications so they can apply for jobs.

“Can anyone tell me what a ‘people person’ is,” Janelle Gilson, a basic skills instructor, asks her class.

In another class, students are challenging their skills by filling out crossword puzzles using common words they have learned and will regularly use. Down the hall in another classroom, an instructor is using her own driver’s license to show her class how the information is used in real-world settings.

Students who demonstrate they are determined to learn the English language are given a book they can take home to study; reinforcing what they learn in class. That’s where the ESL Book Project enters the picture. The grant pays for bilingual picture dictionaries in more than 30 different languages.

The books effectively help students:

  • Participate in job interviews
  • Access community services and resources
  • Ask questions
  • Get directions
  • Engage in their children’s schools
  • Grocery shop
  • Prepare for further education or training
  • Independently function in American society

Supportive Community Partners

“We are all about diversity,” Daren Lannigan, the assistant manager at Walmart Store #4180 in Nampa, said. “We work with a lot of non-native language speakers at our store, so this initiative makes perfect sense for us to support in our community.”

The Walmart Community Grants Team at Store #4180 in Nampa contributed $1,500 for the project. Walmart Store #2508 in Boise awarded $250, and US Bancorp Foundation contributed $4,035. The combined funding will help purchase roughly 230 books.

ESL classes at CWI are offered free of charge and at six different levels. For more information, click here or call 208.562.2571.