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Manchester Community College obtains a grant to expand its English language learners program

Manchester Community College students during an advisory session.
Manchester Community College
Manchester Community College students during an advisory session.

Manchester Community College will use $405,000 to expand its programming and support for students learning English as a second language. The funds come from a $44 million Build Back Better Grant the city of Manchester received last fall. The whole package of funds intends to turn the city into a regional leader in biofabrication, producing and distributing regenerative tissues and organs.

Along with Southern New Hampshire University, the University of New Hampshire-Manchester, and the city, Manchester Community College will use the funds to provide additional services for English language learners. The goal is to support
workforce programs that will train these students to get better jobs in STEM, business, information technology, and more.

A part of the grant focuses on enhancing students’ communication skills. Among the programs that will get a boost are a weekly conversation café where students can practice speaking and listening skills, extended English composition classes, public speaking, math classes, and one-on-ones with advisors.

A full-time advisor will also be able to spend more time with immigrant students to let them know about other resources, like scholarships. Students do not have to be enrolled in a crediting course to receive the benefits.

The U.S. Economic Development Administration will disburse the funds over five years, allowing the college to hire and train a full-time person to increase academic advising and tutoring. It will also enable the expansion of Bridge, a summer program that reaches aspiring college students in the community. Around 100 students, who come from 50 countries, would benefit every year.

Victoria Jaffe, director of marketing and development at the college, says the it's trying to become a “more welcoming place for students of all backgrounds to come and achieve their goals.”

The college currently works with the International Institute of New England and wants to expand the partnership by “being able to connect with students on a deeper and more meaningful level,” said Jaffe.

Stephanie Torres, a former student who says she benefited from the ELL program, now works as a student support representative. She values how much change this grant can do in the lives of international students.

Torres says one of the challenges she had as a first-time college student was the language barrier preventing her from understanding the context of the course materials. She says with more one-on-one advising, that gap can be closed.

“There's more for them than just a high school and getting a job at a regular factory,” she said.

Gabriela Lozada is a Report for America corps member. Her focus is on Latinx community with original reporting done in Spanish for ¿Qué hay de Nuevo NH?.
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