solving problems. uplifting lives.

At JFS, we believe that our clients’ hopes for the future are integral to their resettlement process. Developing valued digital skills and learning English provide clients with the tools needed to be invested agents in their careers and personal accomplishments. Our learning and employment services are offered through an equitable and cultural appropriate approach leveraging digital literacy as a powerful asset. As clients continue to take greater ownership of their English learning practices and develop forms of intercultural competence, JFS reframes the learning programs to further accommodate them and support their affordances.

In recognition of the growing need to support the influx of Ukrainian parolees impacted by the Russian invasion, the JFS ESOL Program has expanded rapidly. With the help of

Professor Marilyn Sandidge and Professor Susan Quandt, retired Westfield State University faculty members, JFS created two ESL classes for the Ukrainian community in Westfield. The morning class mostly serves women while their children are in school or daycare, and the evening class is tailored to accommodate working community members. The two classes currently serve more than 30 JFS clients and are at full capacity. To serve the Ukrainian community in Chicopee, JFS created a third class to receive clients at the Chicopee Public Library. Lynn Yanis, an experienced ESL teacher, and grant and curriculum writer is dedicated to teaching this group of clients. The class convenes in the morning and into the afternoon, providing a space for community building and a value-driven experience.

We continue to support the Afghan Women ESL Class and its annexed early literacy corner for under-five children accompanying the learning mothers. A reading and writing specialist, Tamar Fields, is working with the preliterate group of women, empowering them through innovative learning methodologies. More advanced clients are working on PowerPoint presentations about various topics and are now invited as guest speakers in community events without the need of an interpreter.

The JFS General ESL Class, another space where learners meet for a morning class and for a special group activity every Friday, reassumes on October 25. At the Friday Conversation Circle, all JFS clients are welcome to gather to share songs, stories, and dances from their countries of origin, and learn about each other’s cultures. It is also a space where clients freely talk about the challenges of their transition. The facilitator lends a second ear to all participants and maintains a safe and warm environment for the community to strive and voice their feelings and concerns.

As part of our classroom programs, we offer Digital Literacy Circles to support New Americans in the development of computer skills. Eligible clients meet with the Job Skills Development Coordinator, Rebecca Steinberg, and Digital Literacy Intern, Chandani Rana, for classes establishing the fundamentals of digital literacy. Through this course, all clients hone skills using Google email and meets. They also prepare to join JFS English classes by learning how to navigate the learning platform Burlington English. Upon successful completion of the course, they take ownership of the Chromebook and all the learning opportunities that come with it.

When developing classroom curriculum, JFS considers learner needs and the DLC is no exception. Classroom instructors modify learning goals and materials to meet learners at their level and then support growth from there. For example, a learner from a Kenyan refugee camp might have different needs than a learner from a Ukrainian city. We offer tailored support to welcome learners to American digital communication expectations.

We are always looking for classroom leaders and are happy to train interested volunteers. If you are patient, creative, and comfortable using email and video calling platforms, Rebecca hopes to speak to you regarding DLC leadership! Reach out at r.steinberg@jfswm.org.

We also have an urgent need for ESL Tutors for our mixed gender class at our main office in Springfield. The class runs on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 10am-12pm. We’re looking for two volunteers who are willing to guide clients along with learning English. Experience with teaching ESL is preferred but not required for this role. To volunteer, please fill out our volunteer application form on our JFS website. For questions, contact Massara Almafrachi at m.almarachi@jfswm.org.