Craig When Mayola Cruz came to America from Mexico three years ago, the only English she knew was what she'd learned in a few high school classes.
It wasn't much, she said.
She's picked up some English since living in America. This fall, however, she had a chance to improve and refine her grasp on her new language.
Cruz was one of 20 students enrolled in a new English as a Second Language course in Craig. Integrated Community, a local multicultural group, started offering the classes in September.
Eveline Bacon, Integrated Community Intercultural English as Second Language program manager, previously said she expected to see mostly women enroll in the classes.
Her prediction came true. Most of the students in the three-month semester were mothers, she said.
The classes made a difference for Cruz.
"Now, I'm more independent in this country, because I have communication with everybody," she said. "I speak for myself.
"I don't need interpreters."
With its inaugural classes now over, Integrated Community is gearing up for round two.
A second semester of classes is scheduled to start Jan. 26.
Classes cost $50 and are offered to beginning, intermediate and advanced learners.
Residents can register any time during the three-month course.
Beginning classes take place from 9 to 11:30 a.m. Mondays and Wednesdays in the basement of the building next to St. Michael Catholic Church, 678 School St. Intermediate and advanced courses are scheduled from 9 to 11:30 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays in the same location.
Free child care will be provided Wednesdays.
A pre-test at 9 a.m. Jan. 20 and 21 in the basement of the building adjoining the church will help instructors gauge students' proficiency levels.
In Bacon's view, the ESL classes are beneficial especially for Hispanic women, many of whom are barred from taking careers outside of traditional female roles, she said.
Convincing some non-English speaking women that they can tackle new jobs can be a task in itself.
"They grow up to be submissive and quiet," Bacon said. "I have a totally different vision of women."
Hispanic women who come to America are beginning to realize they need to work, she added, but relegate themselves to jobs traditionally delegated to women.
She thinks learning a new language can make all the difference.
"When they can see what options and opportunities there are (when they learn English), then a whole new world's going to open for them when they can see all they can do," Bacon said.
That situation has become a reality for Cruz since she's taken ESL classes.
"This is an excellent opportunity : to take a different language," she said.