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Afghan arrivals enroll in English classes as they settle in western Massachusetts

A group of people sit around a table with strips of colored paper on it, flanked by posters.
Laurie Millman
Center for New Americans/New England Public Media
Refugees in an English class at Center for New Americans in Amherst, Massachusetts, in 2019.

Afghan evacuees now entering western Massachusetts are starting to enroll in local English classes.

Center for New Americans offers free English classes for refugees and asylum-seekers, and now for Afghan evacuees entering the region. Ten evacuees are being placed in the classes.

Beginner English teacher Avery Hollander at the center's Northampton location said she is starting with the basics.

“We welcomed them right in, and got them right into practicing the alphabet, learning short words and beginning syllables, practicing saying their name, where are they from,” Hollander said.

Executive director Laurie Millman said the center's biggest challenge is getting the evacuees authorization to work.

“We've been working with the career center and other partners to identify potential employment, and there are jobs,” she said.

But Millman said they don't have work authorization yet. That would require the federal government to sign off on each evacuee's application to work.

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