SHU Campus Ops Employees Complete Special ESL Program

News Story: June 1, 2010
Members of Campus Operations received their English as a Second Language (ESL) certificates during a recent departmental meeting.  Bottom row, from left, are Annabella Rua, Maria Rosa, Maria Rondan and Carmen Santiago.  Top row, from left, are University College Dean MaryLou DeRosa, Ernesto Carbajal, Alice Almonacid, Alice Valente, Dongwoon Shin, University College Administrative Assistant Rosa Rodriguez and Madeleine Monaghan, SHU's director of ESL.

During the summer months, Sacred Heart University Campus Operations employees who are non-native English speakers, are putting into practice the vocabulary and grammar lessons they learned throughout the year in a special program offered by the Sacred Heart English Language Institute, or SHELI, by participating in a book club.

The program is designed to provide classes to any non-English speaking SHU employee under the auspices of University College. The student employees attend the free, voluntary classes for the entire academic year – 14 weeks in the fall and another 14 weeks in the spring, for two hours each week on their work time without loss of pay. The curriculum includes the combined skills of listening, reading, writing and grammar comprehension.

“The students speak various languages and are at various levels of proficiency when they enter the class. That makes teaching inherently difficult because of the varying languages, cultures, ages and learning styles,” said Madeleine Monaghan, MBA, director of SHELI, who added that the classes are taught by a highly-qualified instructor who is capable of handling multi-level English proficiency.

The class will recommence in September, but until then the students are invited to participate in the Campus Ops Staff ESL Summer Book Group that meets once a month.

“We are reading a book about Amelia Earhart and our second book is a series of short stories about heroes from different parts of the world,” Monaghan said.

“I’m trying to read more and improve my grammar,” said Ernesto Carbajal, a custodian who has worked for SHU for almost five years. Carbajal said he has participated in the SHELI program since its inception. “I learned a lot of words. I knew some words but in class I learned exactly how to use them; and I’m trying to learn more and more how to write,” said Carbajal, who is originally from Mexico. He came to the United States 31 years ago.

Alice Almonacid, who came to the U.S. from Portugal in 1980, said of the ESL classes, “It gives us an opportunity to get ahead. We learn a lot of words and their correct pronunciation. I think it helps a lot. One of the main things for me is learning how to write in English,” Almonacid said.

Carbajal and Almonacid were among 12 members of the third SHELI graduation class who received certificates in a special ceremony last month. Other graduates included Brunilda Velez, Carmen Santiago, Maria Rondan, Maria Fontanez, Maria Rosa, Alice Valente, Dongwoon Shin, Annabella Rua, Carmen Padin.

In attendance were Rob Hardy, vice president of Human Resources, and Mary Lou DeRosa, dean of University College. Hardy told the graduates he knows how challenging it is to work and also focus on their studies but said their effort will pay dividends.

“Among the many benefits to our community is increased confidence on the job, new friendships and the opportunity to encourage and support lifelong learning. I have been pleased to see students returning to classes and setting new goals for progress each year,” said DeRosa.

“I’ve seen the employees really progress. They are able to understand English better and communicate better, and it improves their confidence,” said Trigona Mililli, manager of custodial services for Campus Operations, who also attended the ceremony.

Monaghan said “Education gives you a choice in life.” The ESL classes open up the world to the students, allowing them to make decisions about where to shop and what movies they want to see, said Monaghan.   A Haitian-Creole language and culture class at SHU’s Stamford campus was started last March in response to the Haitian earthquake to instruct volunteers who went to Haiti to help with relief efforts.

We are offering a full 14-week semester course starting in September in Haitian Creole and culture due to demand, Monaghan said.

The Campus Ops ESL class is open to all SHU employees. Any employee who is interested in joining the class, can contact Monaghan, who will enroll them in the class and then contact their supervisor.

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