Free adult ESL program launching in Elgin

A new program offering free English as a second language classes for adults will launch in November in Elgin.

The program is a partnership between the nonprofit Lao American Organization of Elgin and Chicago-based Chinese Mutual Aid Association, which share an office in downtown Elgin.

The goal is to help adult immigrants "gain the language and the confidence to pursue academic and career goals," said Ket Herena, suburban outreach senior specialist.

The program can accommodate up to 150 students and is open to any adult immigrant, regardless of legal status, she said. About 20 students have registered, she said.

"We really want serious students that want to better their life or help their kids do better in school," she said. "We also partner up with companies to do job placements after they're finished with the program."

YWCA Elgin and Elgin Community College also offer adult ESL programs.

Herena has a special connection to her work because ESL classes gave her family a chance to build a life after settling in Elgin as refugees from Laos in 1978, she said.

She and her four siblings took ESL classes in school and her parents took ESL classes at the YWCA Elgin. Her parents worked factory jobs and her father later enrolled in vocational classes at ECC to get a higher-paying job. She and her siblings all graduated from college, she said.

"That's why I am very passionate that I can bring this program in the Elgin community," she said.

Learning English also helps immigrants be more involved with their children on such things as homework and college applications, she said.

The Chinese Mutual Aid Association ESL program will be funded by a grant of a yet unspecified amount from the Illinois Community College Board, Herena said. A college board spokesman said the figure - based on a formula including population - wasn't immediately available.

The nonprofit also wants to spread the word about its "homemaker" program in Elgin, which provides a range of services - grocery shopping, bathing, laundry, house cleaning and more - for limited-income seniors ages 60 and up and adults with physical disabilities, Herena said. Eligible clients must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents. The program has about 20 staff members and serves about 30 people.

To register for ESL classes or for more information about the homemaker program, go to the Chinese Mutual Aid Association, 164 Division St., Room 503, Elgin., or email

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