The South Side Branch of Bethlehem Area Public Library is a grateful recipient of a $1,000 grant from Vernon Library Supplies, which funds a new program: Vocational ESL of the Lehigh Valley. This course will be one of the few ESL (English as a Second Language) classes structured not only to help refugee and immigrant communities excel in English proficiency, but also navigate the process of searching for employment in the United States. The class will be focused on identifying transferable skills that students already have, and building upon intermediate level English vocabulary, reading and comprehension skills. The class will give students the opportunity to practice interviewing, negotiation, and day-to-day workplace communication, as well as practical computer skills needed to create a resume and send it to prospective jobs. The goal is to develop an achievable career path. What sets apart this class from other ESL classes is the individual attention to each student, and the invested interest in helping each person to establish a career, and not just a job or a gig, in a new country.
Judy and Shai Robkin, owners of Vernon Library Supplies, had the altruistic goal of donating one hundred percent of Vernon’s 2017 operating profits to libraries and other non-profits helping Americans gain English literacy and proficiency. The Robkins are very proud of and appreciative of their own employees, many of whom are new immigrants. Judy’s father, Henry, was a 13 year old child who escaped from Nazi Germany and came to the U.S. knowing no English. He returned to Germany to fight against the regime as an American soldier. The G.I. Bill allowed Henry to pursue his American education. The influence of both familial history and current affairs inspired the Robkins to become avid supporters for many programs that promote the successful integration of immigrants, including Vocational ESL of the Lehigh Valley.
Janine Santoro, an Adult Services Technician at the South Side Branch, will be teaching the class alongside Anne Cragen, a certified ESL teacher. The class will also be drawing upon knowledge and resources from South Side Bethlehem’s local CareerLink office, Community Action Board, business representatives, and recruitment specialists. This new program and these exciting community connections allow BAPL to continue to be a dedicated community partner committed to life-long learning, which is at the heart of our mission. Immigrants and refugees make up both an influential and invaluable part of not only Bethlehem’s cultural tapestry, but also our country’s. In offering this program to refugees and immigrants, regardless of status, we are strengthening our resolve to being a non-profit that educates, informs and inspires by providing free and open access to materials of information to all people.