English For Speakers Of Other Languages Program Celebrates 30 Years Of Service

From the left: Alejandra Prada, Haydee Buitron, Peggy O’Hanlon, and Jeanie Reyes. (Contributed photo)

The Port Washington Public Library’s English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) program began as a small idea 30 years ago in March 1993, with ten students, five volunteer tutors, and two classes. The goal was to help new members of our community to learn English, strengthen their language skills, and welcome them to Port Washington. Since that time, the program has grown by leaps and bounds. Thanks to the work of the ESOL staff, the dedicated tutors, and the ongoing support of the Friends of the Library, we were able to offer 44 classes with 43 active tutors and had over 250 enrolled students in 2022. Among these students, there were 19 different languages spoken from over 31 countries. One student from Korea recently shared, “The Library gives me an opportunity to learn languages (actually, we learn lots of things such as cultures, histories, etc.) I would like to call the library staff, teachers, and classmates “Angels.” Thank you so much for you all giving me ‘Hope’ to live stronger and tougher.”

Our in-person classes and participation increased as students and tutors began coming back to the Library after the pandemic. Zoom classes are still offered to accommodate those with transportation or childcare conflicts. In 2022, ESOL students collectively reached over 652 contact hours. Homework Help, a volunteer-based afternoon program, offers homework assistance to school-aged children who are from households where English is not the primary language spoken. Often, language barriers can prevent parents from helping their children to complete their homework assignments. Spearheaded by the Library’s ESOL program, Homework Help had over 20 students and 17 Port Washington teen volunteers participate in 2022. Aside from English classes, the ESOL program also offers GED and citizenship preparation classes, defensive driving in Spanish, orientation and community information sessions covering topics such as health, banking, immigration, and more. With funding from the Friends of the Library, the ESOL Program also organizes special cultural celebrations honoring Hispanic Heritage Month and Lunar New Year.

This success could not have been possible without the efforts of Peggy O’Hanlon (Head of the ESOL Department), the ESOL staff, the dedicated tutors, the PWPL Tech Department, the support of the Friends of the Library and, most important, the Port Washington community. Thank you for all your enduring support and to 30 more years of service to our community.
For more information about our ESOL Program, please contact Peggy O’Hanlon at ohanlonp@pwpl.org or 516 883-4400 x1308. This service is free to all members who live or work in the Port Washington community.

—Submitted by the
Port Washington Public Library