$25K Meyer Grant for UCM ESL Literacy & Work Center

UCM staff  Carmen Carcamo and Cristina Schoendorf (at center) celebrate the end of a productive semester of classes with some of the volunteer teachers at UCM’s Progreso Center for Literacy and Citizenship on May 21.
UCM staff Carmen Carcamo and Cristina Schoendorf (at center) celebrate the end of a productive semester of classes with some of the volunteer teachers at UCM’s Progreso Center for Literacy and Citizenship on May 21.

UCM Awarded Meyer Foundation Grant for ESL Literacy and Work Programs

   Click here to download full press release (pdf). 

United Community Ministries (UCM) is pleased to announce a new $25,000 grant awarded by the Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Foundation (www.meyerfoundation.org) to support the programs of its Progreso Center for Literacy and Citizenship and the UCM Work Center. UCM was one of 23 grants awarded in the foundation’s Economic Security program area, which supports organizations that focus on workforce development.

“We are so grateful to the Meyer Foundation for this award,” says Cristina Schoendorf, UCM Director for Literacy and Work. “This generous grant will inspire life-long changes for good, helping people struggling with language barriers to gain access to skills and services so they can achieve self-sufficiency.”

Earlier this year, the programs of the Progreso Center were integrated with UCM.  More than 200 non-English speakers every year receive comprehensive, affordable and accessible ESL and citizenship instruction, thanks to dedicated trained volunteers who teach and co-teach classes.

“For people to achieve and maintain stability, continued learning and career development are essential.  With UCM’s help, people in Alexandria with limited skills and literacy can acquire the skills necessary to function – and thrive – in today’s labor market,” she continues. “They work hard to improve their English language skills and employment opportunities through participation in ESL classes, computer classes, and job readiness classes.”

After attaining a basic level of English proficiency, Progreso Center clients have direct access to job coaches from UCM’s Work Center. By providing time before class for students to talk with these dedicated employment staff, the process of job hunting and career planning can start at the same time as English proficiency increases. This creates a pipeline to help people move more quickly into better paying, more stable jobs and to increased economic stability.

UCM clients appreciate their caring teachers and the convenience of ESL classes at various locations and times, including evenings.  ESL courses and classes that provide a path to U.S. citizenship continue at Progreso’s 4100 Mohawk Lane office.  Conversation and tutoring sessions take place at various locations including Sherwood Hall Library in Alexandria.

Client Maria and her husband Alberto * moved from Venezuela several years ago to be closer to their adult daughter and their grandchildren in Alexandra.  Maria worked in psychology and Alberto was in the military.  They are working toward their U.S. citizenship and have just completed the Level 4 ESL course together this semester.  "If we can speak English well, we can help our daughter with her family. We can help our grandson with his homework,” says Maria.  “The volunteer teachers here are friendly and very helpful,” adds Alberto.

The Progreso Center is recruiting volunteers to teach or co-teach ESL classes (all levels) in the Fall.  To volunteer or to learn more, call the Center at 703.799.8830 or email Director Cristina Schoendorf at cristina.schoendorf@ucmagency.org.

United Community Ministries prrovides a vital connection between people in need and the people committed to helping them thrive.  UCM is celebrating its 45th anniversary of service to the community during 2014.  UCM services include:

·      Immediate Help.  For families and individuals in crisis, UCM provides food, financial aid, and counseling.

·      Education and Employment.  Services such as job training and coaching, full-day early care and learning, ESL and citizenship classes, and parental education help people achieve stability.

·      Community Engagement.  UCM’s neighborhood centers, with after-school programs and leadership training, engage youth and families in broader social networks for success.

Last fiscal year, thanks to generous community support, in south Fairfax County UCM provided life-changing assistance to 4,392 families.

 Like UCM of Alexandria on facebook at: www.facebook.com/UCM.Alexandria

* Note:Client names change


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