Grants awarded to help break the language barrier for New Americans

Posted at 2:36 PM, Dec 05, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-05 14:36:45-05

To be better equipped to break the language barriers that New Americans in Michigan with limited English proficiency may face while looking for employment, the Michigan Office for New Americans (MONA) has awarded grants for innovative Adult English as a Second Language programs.

“As a welcoming state for New Americans, we know and value their contributions toward strengthening our economy, building our workforce, creating jobs, and revitalizing our communities,” said Gov. Rick Snyder. “We want to capitalize on diverse perspectives, cultures and talents for knowledge, creativity and innovation.”

Many of MONA’s community partner organizations called for additional support in the delivery of ESL programming for existing and newly arriving immigrant communities across Michigan. These grants will support collaborative work among nontraditional partners in the delivery of innovative ESL programming that is better able to meet the varied needs of Michigan’s diverse immigrant community.

Five primary organizations representing a collaboration of multiple partners were awarded MONA grants:

• Refugee Development Center in Lansing
• Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services (ACCESS)
• International Institute of Metro Detroit
• Literacy Center of West Michigan
• Michigan United

“Winning proposals demonstrated creative learning platforms, especially self-paced and skill-based learning that will address key challenges of the current lack of classes that target Vocational English as a Second Language for otherwise work-ready individuals, and ESL preparatory classes for exams required for some professional licenses and most higher education institutions,” said MONA Director Bing Goei. “We want to address the challenges that LEP workers face in finding employment, or obtaining licensing and contributing to Michigan’s economy.”

Goei also marked in a release the goal of seeing marked improvement of English language proficiency, especially among participants in geographic areas with a high concentration of immigrants who have been previously underserved by traditional ESL programming.

The awardees of the one-year grants were given a maximum of $50,000 each and the program goes though 2017. According to a statement, the target audience of the ESL initiative are New Americans with Limited English Proficiency, including Green cardholders, refugees, asylees and asylum applicants.

MONA was established by Snyder in 2014 to grow Michigan’s economy by retaining and attracting global talent to the state, and promoting the skills, energy and entrepreneurial spirit of our immigrant communities, according to the release.