As we started to plan the logistics for the English Intensive Program, we soon began to see shortcomings to this idea. The first main issue was that the church had started an ESL program of its own in February, and it had been very successful and was growing. The pastor told us that they were planning to have classes for three different levels during the summer taught by students of RIC who were training to become professional ESL teachers. Did it make sense then to also offer a ESL group class? Wouldn’t this mean replicating a service that the community was already offering? We also realized that the group we had in mind for the program was very specific and would be difficult to find, we wanted a group of adults with an intermediate level of English and a desire to pursue further education, and who did not already have to many commitments so they could spend a significant amount of time working on this during the summer. Also it was a fundamental part of the program that students would attend regularly, and with adult education this can be difficult to achieve. The Pastor as well as Julius were very concerned about this issue, because in their previous experiences with programs of this kind they were unable to make sure students came consistently. Despite brainstorming a lot about different possibilities to improve attendance, including a contract and financial incentives, we couldn’t really come up with a viable solution. We found ourselves in a position where the beginning of the summer was very close and the idea of a summer intensive program did not seem so viable. It was clear that we had to re-evaluate our plan and come up with a better way to provide ESL support to students over the summer. We needed to think of something that was complementary to the services that already existed in the church and that gave refugees the help they really needed.
Along with the plans to expand their ESL program, the church also wanted to create an Academic Resource Center where they could provide support to youth in their congregation with their academics and the process of applying to college. We realized that what was needed for the refugee community was a more flexible service were the times and topics of the classes adjusted more to the needs of individuals. We thought that we could expand the idea of the Academic Resource Center (ARC) to include refugees and immigrants and in this way provide them with flexible and individualized support. The ARC would offer ESL tutoring and like it originally intended, it would be a place where people could receive help for the purpose of accessing further educational opportunities. Here we could help refugee students with the pre-requisites they needed to enroll in a GED (Graduate Education Diploma) or CAN (Certified Nursing Assistant) training course, which are common aspirations of refugees in the Providence community. Although we were very excited about the intensive English program, we realized how important it was to constantly re-evaluate what we were proposing and make sure it fitted well with the needs of the populations and the resources and abilities we had.
That way it was decided: we would offer individual ESL tutoring for adults as part of the ARC!