Adult Education

JFS helps our newly arrived refugee clients succeed in their new home, including teaching them English for work, pre-employment skills, digital literacy and financial literacy skills.

Refugees come to the US with skills, strengths, and a capacity and drive to succeed. JFS helps our newly arrived refugee clients succeed in their first jobs, including teaching them English for work, pre-employment skills, digital literacy and financial literacy skills. Before and after securing employment, JFS continues to work with resettled refugees to set them on a learning path and a career. JFS works in partnership with area community colleges and learning centers to connect refugees with and help them succeed in training programs, including CNA, PCA, CDL and other certification programs. From enrollment to self-sufficiency and beyond, JFS supports them as they gain the skills and confidence to pursue their goals.

Adult Education Programs

The ESL Coaching Program

The ESL Coaching Program was launched as a learning program for our youth and adult JFS clients in 2020 after the suspension of classes due to COVID-19. In prior years, JFS offered in-person group classes to help our clients learn English, in addition to referring them to other ESL programs offered by community partners. The first phase of the ESL Coaching Program started with remote learning only.

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Our Program recruits volunteers, and provides them with specialized training in online education in addition to orienting them with cultural norms relative to our vulnerable populations including: refugees, asylees, and conflict-zones’ evacuees. Volunteers participating in our Program engage in a comprehensive onboarding process in an effort to match their values and expectations with those of JFS’s.

Our Program utilizes a web-based learning platform, Burlington English, to offer a unified career path informed curriculum. Burlington English satisfies all of the four learning skills: listening, speaking, reading, and writing, all while providing an interactive learning experience. Learners may access the content any time, and on any device, to work on their homework, and review their lessons. They may also access the Readers option to read a book pertaining to their level. Through Burlington English, coaches are able to offer placement tests, access lesson plans, track their learners’ progress, and so much more. All of our coaches are required to go through Burlington English online training and meet with their liaison for questions and extra help during designated office hours.

Training continues throughout our coaches’ involvement using JFS Coaching Coaches Series, a sub-program aiming at delivering engaging presentations on efficient ESL strategies to enhance the teaching of language learners. We use the term “coach” rather than “teacher” to imply the multilayers of volunteer engagements with clients. Though ESL remains the focus of the Program, our coaches help with so much more including assistance with filling out job and college applications, preparing for interviews, and assisting with cultural orientations

With the widespread vaccination and the requirement of it among JFS staff members and volunteers, the second phase of our Program involves one-on-one and small group in-person meetings. JFS partnered with local libraries to secure spaces for our coaches and their learners in Springfield, West Springfield, and Chicopee. Two fully equipped classroom spaces are set up at JFS location in Springfield, for novice and high-beginner learners.

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Conversation Circles

Our themed base Conversation Circles aim to introduce a topic, relative to the Burlington English path to work curriculum, where learners have the opportunity to practice lesson materials. Circles involve a moderator, and 6-8 learners at the novice and low-beginner levels, working together toward utilizing vocabulary, and basic sentence structure in an informal and friendly atmosphere.

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The idea of including more than one level is to encourage supportive participation and dialogic learning mechanisms across the levels. Learners are offered the space to help one another, and develop an understanding of experiences that may play in pathways to positive adaptation. The moderator’s role is to facilitate the conversations by introducing the topic and provide inviting gestures to the learners in the Circle. Learners are encouraged “to talk the talk” all by themselves.

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Home Coaching Program

During the fourth quarter of 2021, evacuees from Afghanistan had already started to settle around Western Mass. Among the many challenges Afghan evacuees are facing here is the immobility of expectant and new mothers. Most of them are not able to attend in-person ESL classes, or even Digital Literacy Circles, to help them navigate remote learning. With concerns that lack of engagement may result in social isolation and consequent mental health issues, we proposed the Home Coaching Program to provide clients with expectancy or newborns at-home ESL coaching/homebound instruction.

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Luckily, several volunteers were able to fulfill this need. In December, 2021, our first participant, an eight-month pregnant mother of a two-year-old, was already welcoming her coach for instruction in the living room. “On our first visit, with an enthusiastic warm smile on her face, she served us the most delicious guava juice ever!” said our Education Coordinator.

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Digital Literacy Circles

Digital Literacy Circles (DLC) prepare clients to take advantage of remote learning opportunities. Taught by highly qualified volunteers over the course of 3 sessions, the DLC introduces clients to a chromebook and how to use it. Over the course of three sessions, they practice using Zoom, Burlington English, and Gmail. Once they have successfully completed the DLC, clients take home their new device, and with it, a world of opportunity for growth.  

Employment Skills Training Program

Beginning in Fall 2021,our  Employment Skills Training Program connects refugee clients with opportunities to learn about work in the United States through both experiential and classroom learning. Through community partnerships with the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, manufacturing plants, and driving schools, clients get an opportunity to experience work in the United States.

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Clients experience working as a team to distribute food to communities in need, practice workplace safety while touring a manufacturing plant, and learn about the road to earning a driver’s license. In the classroom, program participants practice interviewing for jobs with trained volunteers, hear from New Americans who have developed a career and life in the United States, and participate in lab experiences that prepare them for the workforce.

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JFS Financial Literacy Circles

As we prepare JFSWM clients to improve their quality of life, and become economically independent, we offer financial literacy to ensure they are better equipped to make sound financial decisions. Using a human-centered approach designed to deliver information relevant to their daily lives and neighborhoods, these circles aim at providing effective strategies to interact with financial services, budgeting, and achieving financial goals. These Circles are tailored for small groups of clients speaking a common language and facilitated in-person using interactive PowerPoint slides via an interpreter. 

The Referral Program

We are focused on providing support to our clients based on their needs. Along with our robust in-house educational and life-skills programs, we have a referral program for our clients who need specialized job training, want to obtain a certification, or the need for continued ESL classes.

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We have built strong partnerships with local community colleges, and other agencies in the greater Springfield area. Each of the programs offered by our partners have different enrollment processes. Beyond referring our clients to these programs, we walk them through the enrollment process. Upon successful enrollment, we continue to follow up and provide support whenever needed to ensure that our clients complete the program successfully.

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For more information about JFS Adult Education and Training Programs, including  opportunities for partnership, please contact Syonara Tomoum, Adult Learning and Youth Coordinator, at

If you are interested in referring clients, or to inquire about opportunities for partnership, please contact Syonara Tomoum, Youth and Adult Learning Coordinator, at


Since its inception in 1898, JFS has been a nationally recognized leader in refugee resettlement. From appointment accompaniment to English conversation practice and job mentorship, volunteers play an important role in supporting JFS staff and our clients. We invite you to join our team and experience it for yourself!