E.S.L. program: Changing lives through unique perspectives

By Josh Strope

Cumberland County College’s English as a Second Language (ESL) program has been helping students from different cultures learn and excel at academics in the United States for decades. Students who may have, or had trouble learning the English language come together at different skill levels to work with each other and help each other succeed. 

The students go to the ESL Resource Center (ESL Lab) where they work together to figure out what they are having trouble with. They also tell success stories to inspire newly added students, and the program even has some alumni return to help others. 

The ESL program is offered for both full-time and part-time students. The classes are offered in the evening for those who work around busy schedules. The courses are offered in two semesters, the fall semester, which runs from September until December, and spring semester runs from late January until mid May. ESL Director Donald Forcinito states, “Everyone from adult learners to recent high school graduates sit side-by-side in ESL classes, and provide each other with support and the unique perspectives that their experiences have given them.”

Many times students from other countries feel that a college level education is “unreachable”. Jean-Pierre A. Estupinan, an ESL student and tutor states, “The ESL lab changed my life. Before the lab, college was unreachable. Teachers are there to push you, [they] have patience, passion, to help you reach your goals.”

Some students lack the confidence to ask questions in class because they feel their communication skills aren’t to the point where they will be understood. Some students have already obtained Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees and have enrolled in ESL classes for personal improvement and to receive advisement on transferring credits to the United States. Students such as Jean-Pierre A Estupinan, Melanie Perez, and Gurpretti Singh have made it through all four levels of the ESL program and have very high grade point averages.  These students speak highly of the program, saying that they spend so much time together that they consider each other family. They consider the lab their home where they can help each other with both academic and personal struggles. Denise Arrigo, Coordinator of the ESL program shares, “As a tutor and an instructor it is such a great experience to see them succeed. They are learning English to learn to survive and learn to get ahead. It’s very rewarding.”

To enroll in the ESL program, students must already have a basic knowledge of both written and spoken English. Students learn to rely less on translations by learning how to process English like a native-English speaker. To register for the ESL program, students interested should report to the Enrollment Services Center and complete the college application. Student can also contact the Financial Aid Office at Cumberland to set up an appointment (you must be a legal resident or citizen of the U.S. to qualify for financial aid). This process may take 5 to 6 weeks. Students may then report to the Center for Academic and Student Support to take the ESL Placement Test.  The test will take approximately 2 hours. You will be tested in English Grammar, Reading, and Listening. You will also type a short paragraph. Your test results will be sent to an ESL advisement counselor. You should receive a telephone call approximately 7-10 days after you take the test to set up an advisement appointment. At your appointment, you will receive guidance in choosing the courses, which are appropriate for your level of English. You will also receive all of the necessary information about the ESL Program

The CCC ESL program has been around since the college has opened. It has been growing and evolving to help suit the needs of a growing, diverse community. The future goal of the ESL program is to be able to offer classes to the community, in hopes to inspire others to join the academic program and earn college degrees. For more information on the ESL program, contact Mr. Donald Forcinito at 856-691-8600 x404 or Ms. Denise Arrigo at 856-691-8600 x482.

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