Education lies at the center of all of IAM's programming because we understand that education is the key to empowering individuals to advocate for themselves. In addition to directly serving the immigrant community of Flushing, Queens, IAM also seeks to indirectly serve and promote the community as a whole by educating and engaging non-immigrants on issues facing newly-arrived persons to the United States.
Since November 2009, IAM has worked with St. Michael's Parish in Flushing to provide English as a Second Language (ELS) courses to immigrants in the area. The ESL classes run once a week, on Sundays from 3-6pm. IAM offers a 15-week course in the fall and a 17-week course in the Spring. IAM's ESL Program is unique for many reasons. First of all, it has a curriculum that focuses on workforce readiness. The curriculum seeks to improve the English language skills of both old and new labor market entrants and strengthen not just their own earning power, but the local economy as a whole. The ESL Program's lessons prepare students to use the kind of language necessary at a job interview, in an office, or at various job settings. A typical in-classroom activity involves role-playing scenarios such as a job interview, a conflict in the work environment, a conservation with a colleague, or an end-of-year review with a supervisor.
Also, the classes have an experiential learning component where students are taken out of the classroom for various lessons. In any given semester students will visit the public library, the Flushing Town Hall, the local NYPD precinct and other community locations. This component is crucial to IAM's mission of helping immigrants integrate into American society. It fosters understanding of the community, the different institutions and the cultures that make up the fabric of the neighborhood.
Conversation Mixers are another, more unconventional way for immigrants to improve their language skills. Mixers are free and open to I.A.M.’s ESL students as well as immigrants in the community. This free conversation practice serves as a first introduction to prospective ESL students. These mixers allow immigrants to practice their English with native English language speakers in a non-traditional and informal setting.
Each mixer is structured around a specific theme. If the theme is, for instance, “dreams and goals,” vocabulary and questions are provided to each participant around that theme. ESL students and volunteers break into groups where one volunteer leads the conversation and goes over the vocabulary with the help of other volunteers in that group. Together, volunteers and students break down the definition and pronunciation of each word on the list. Then, they go over questions related to the theme. They discuss the meaning of the questions and then they ask each other the questions and have a conversation about the theme. Mixers happen at different locations throughout the neighborhood depending on the theme.
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