Gifts to the College of Western Idaho (CWI) Foundation are given in all shapes and sizes; from employees who donate out of their own pockets and paychecks to companies like Micron and Hewlett-Packard which recently donated phones and filing cabinets to support the College’s Administrative Specialist program. While all gifts make an impact, an on-going donation from Zions Bank is helping a group of people who want to learn something many people take for granted; the ability to read, write, and speak English.
Denise Sukkar’s Conversations class is part of CWI’s English as a Second Language (ESL) program. It is comprised of one of those groups who are benefitting from Zions Bank’s annual $6,000 grant. This is the fifth year CWI has received the grant; which is used to help fund the program’s instruction and materials costs.
The impact of the donations can be seen in Sukkar’s class every day. Recently, the group was learning how to construct sentences using the proper tense: past, present, and future. They were also working on pronunciation and fluency. Using one of the student’s life as an example, the class built a timeline so they can practice. One-by-one, the students asked questions—using proper English—to fill out the timeline. The example student also gave responses in proper form. Once the timeline was filled out, they each took a turn at telling the student’s life story using all of the different tenses.
“That’s right,” Sukkar repeated to the class—echoing a student’s words, “Lucia arrived in Idaho on May 11. She was studying psychology in Peru when she met her husband in 2013.”
Her students come from many different places: El Salvador, Mexico, Peru, and the Philippines. Differences aside, all agree that learning English is hard; especially when they find out one word—using nursery as an example—can mean many different things. Most thought it meant being a nurse.
“A nursery is a place where you can grow plants,” Sukkar told the students. “It is also a place for a baby. It’s like our forefathers couldn’t make up their minds when they put the English language together.”
As confusing as it is, the students smile a lot and take a lot of notes. They nod when they understand and keep the conversations strictly English. By using real-life applications, Sukkar guides them all through what they are there to learn.
“They really want to know how to speak properly,” Sukkar said. “They want to go out, get jobs, and learn. We are truly thankful for Zions Bank’s donation in helping us help them.”