University's Sí Se Puede Grant Offers Free ESL Instruction in South Laredo

An anonymous donor interested in helping the people of Laredo to improve their language skills to more effectively participate in the life of their community has funded a pilot grant delivered by Texas A&M International University in South Laredo at the Misión de Santo Niño.

"Sí Se Puede - Yes I Can" is the name of the grant that has already enrolled 36 students free of charge in intensive English as a Second Language classes led by the faculty and staff of the University's International Language Institute (ILI).

The program, developed through an innovative partnership between the anonymous donor, the University, foundations, and religious entities, has the potential to change lives and better futures, said University president Dr. Charles Jennett.

"This is a remarkable collaboration that we believe will lead to better lives and brighter futures. We hope that it will serve as a model and encourage others to partner with us to expand this effort," Dr. Jennett explained.

Jennett said the initiative is important to Laredo's growth and leadership as it serves to increase participation in the life of the community by its citizens.

"This serves as an opportunity for a large group of citizens to be better able to participate in the life of their community and take a more dynamic role it its leadership. We salute the vision of our anonymous donor and value this opportunity to be the lead catalyst in making this opportunity real," Jennett said.

Conchita Hickey, ILI director, said students in the program have a clear commitment to it and are truly engaged students.

"The people who have opted to participate in Sí Se Puede - Yes I Can, are clearly committed to this program. They are intelligent, hard-working people whose lack of English skills creates barriers to their progress. Offering these ESL courses at no cost to them will give them the opportunity to more fully participate in the life of their community in so many ways, and remove these barriers," she explained.

Lisa Flores, ILI associate director, said the program concentrates on specific competencies in grammar, listening, speaking, reading and writing.

"The combination of these specific competencies will better enable them to participate in a greater range of daily life: participating in their children's education, increasing their employment opportunities, earning a decent living, participating in local government and contributing to the welfare of Santo Niño and Laredo," Flores explained.

Hickey indicated that the program will be offered in three progressive options, from beginning to intermediate and advanced. She is hopeful that students will continue to proceed through the options, mastering higher levels of competencies as they do so.

"We have great confidence in these students, as they have made a true commitment to attending classes that are two hours in length, five times a week, for a total of 80 hours of instruction after an eight-week period.

"Many have indicated that they hope to be able to re-engage in the educational process at some time in the future, perhaps going on to earn a high school diploma, or perhaps consider higher education, " she explained.

The Sí Se Puede - Yes I Can classes are held at the Misión de Santo Niño. Persons interested in enrolling in future classes are encouraged to contact Hickey or Flores at the International Language Institute.

For additional information on the program, contact Hickey or Flores at the ILI, 326.2134, email to or or visit offices located in Killam Library 214.

University office hours are from 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. Monday-Friday.

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