Eveline Bacon, Integrated Community intercultural English as a Second Language program manager, teaches ESL earlier this year. Integrated Community is scheduled to begin its third semester of English as a Second Language classes this month for beginning, intermediate and advanced learners.

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Eveline Bacon, Integrated Community intercultural English as a Second Language program manager, teaches ESL earlier this year. Integrated Community is scheduled to begin its third semester of English as a Second Language classes this month for beginning, intermediate and advanced learners.

Breaking down the language barrier

ESL placement tests to be held April 20 to 22

If you go

What: English as a Second Language placement tests

When: 9 a.m. April 20 to 22

Where: Basement of St. Michael Catholic Church, 678 School St.

Eveline Bacon's favorite part of the day is teaching English to non-native speakers.

Through coordinating and teaching Integrated Community's English as a Second Language classes - which began September 2008 - Bacon can reach people directly and see firsthand if her work changes lives for the better.

For some of her students recently, however, change has come, for good and bad, whether they like it or not.

"Most of the husbands (of the women in ESL classes) work in construction, and right now, that's really slow," said Bacon, Integrated Community intercultural ESL program manager. "A lot of the husbands are unemployed. The women realize now they need to get a job, learn more English."

The transition has broken long-standing traditions in some Hispanic households.

"It's very different," Bacon said. "They're trying to break from the role of always being Mom, always being home."

Enough women have become interested in the program that Integrated Community began offering free child day care for children 12 and younger during class time.

"A lot of them cannot come because they have to stay home with the kids," Bacon said. "This is for them."

Classes for the program's next semester begin April 27. Beginning level classes will be from 9 to 11:30 a.m. Mondays and Wednesdays, and intermediate/advanced classes are 9 to 11:30 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Anyone who wants to participate must first take a placement test to discern what level of class they should enroll in.

For the coming session, tests will be offered at 9 a.m. April 20 to 22 in the basement of St. Michael Catholic Church, 678 School St.

Sitting for a placement test is free. Classes are $50 for one semester, which includes a textbook.

Two native English speakers - Debbie Rudd, Yampa Valley Pregnancy Center executive director, and Donna Sweet, a former special education teacher who now substitutes - help Bacon teach.

"That's the integrated part of the program," Bacon said.

English classes are important for anyone who wants to become more involved in the community, she added.

Although Bacon is an immigrant and non-native English-speaker herself - she became a U.S. citizen in January after a five-year process - she said some students still regard her with a degree of suspicion, as if she was part of the local establishment because of her title with Integrated Community.

"I grew up in Brazil, so I can understand it," Bacon said. "It comes from growing up in a country that is unstable. It's very hard to trust."

She remembered in 1990, when President Fernando Collor de Mello - Brazil's first democratically elected president for 29 years - "confiscated" everyone's private bank accounts and would only let people draw a few hundred dollars a day.

The president intended the move to stop rapidly growing inflation, but it also kept some from being able to pay bills.

"So, it's hard to believe people sometimes," Bacon said, laughing.

By helping "integrate" the community, however, ESL classes can make inroads into people's mindsets and help lessen things, like distrust, that keep people separate, she added.

Local ESL classes have shown themselves to be a benefit for the roughly 20 residents who have taken the classes so far, Bacon said.

"They tell us they are able to talk to their (children's) teachers," she said. "They're going to parent-teacher conferences for the first time. They understand more at doctor and dentist appointments."

Integrated Community hopes to expand the ESL program into specialized courses to meet some of the issues apparent in the community, Bacon added, such as a health literacy class and a citizenship class, which would prepare immigrants residing locally for U.S. citizenship exams.

"It's all very important," Bacon said. "We are looking for funding to do evening classes, but so far we haven't found the money and the volunteers."

For more information, call Bacon at 824-6424.

Collin Smith can be reached at 875-1794 or cesmith@craigdailypress.com.

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