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Learning English as a family

Norma, Grethel, Roberto, Melida, Gino

After immigrating to Minnesota from Mexico in 2018, Norma and her family realized they would need to learn English. “It’s needed for everything—in school, for ourselves, to try and get involved with other people. [Without learning English] we won’t be able to talk to anyone else,” Norma shares.

Jessie, Norma’s sister-in-law, was interning at Neighborhood House and introduced Norma to their adult education programs. Shortly after, Norma, her husband, Roberto, and her mother-in-law, Melida all enrolled in English classes.

Her daughter Grethel then joined the preschool program with her cousin Gino, Jessie’s son. Her Early Childhood Teacher, Valerie, says, “When Grethel first started she had an extremely difficult time being away from her mother.” But she soon formed a connection with a Spanish-speaking teacher, Danielle. Staff rearranged their schedules so that Danielle could be with Grethel each day in class for a week or two. “It worked,” says Valerie. “Grethel felt comfortable and safe and was then able to develop positive relationships with the other teachers as well.”

“She didn’t speak English when she started class, but she was very eager to learn, and learned quickly,” says Parent and Early Childhood Education Program Manager Amanda. “She liked to be silly and laughed a lot.”

Unfortunately, Norma and her family faced obstacles when it came to being able to attend classes. “It is very difficult for us when there is snow because we don’t have transportation,” Norma says. “So we would go on the bus.” Like anyone who’s lived through at least one winter in Minnesota would know, trekking to a bus stop after a snowfall can be difficult. Add in bringing your young daughter and newborn in a stroller and you get an even more challenging walk.

But Norma was dedicated to learning English and the family continued attending classes.

“She had a baby a year or two ago and she kept attending English classes even after giving birth,” says Eva, an English teacher at Neighborhood House. “That shows her dedication to learning English.”

“When I used to take my baby … it was easy because he was just in the stroller,” Norma explains. “Once he started walking it was very difficult for me to have him in a single place,” she laughs.

When COVID-19 hit, life for Norma, Grethel, Roberto, Gino, and Melida changed.

Norma and Roberto worked for a cleaning company, but after the pandemic started they had their hours cut and eventually only Roberto was able to stay employed.

The family began using the food market at Neighborhood House to make ends meet. “[The pandemic] complicated our situation … There have been times when they have reduced our pay, or we’ve had to reduce our expenses,” says Norma. “By helping with the food and such it is a lot of help.”

Norma and Melida’s English classes have also been moved online due to the pandemic, but Norma says this has been a good shift. “For me on one hand, it has been better to take the online classes. Because like I told you, I’m better able to look after my kids so it’s better since I am home. Sometimes it gets complicated because I have to tend to everything, but in a certain way, it has been better for me to take the classes this way because it allows me to be in control of everything.”

Grethel and Gino had since graduated PECE. After participating in the in-person summer camp program in 2019, Grethel joined the virtual summer camp program in 2020 where she learned about STEM, arts, and literacy through fun activities delivered to her home each week.

Grethel also joined the youth literacy program this year. Youth Literacy Instructor Sara says, “Grethel is the sweetest ever. She listens to me, is very receptive, and wants to learn. She is very empathetic and loves telling stories as well as listening to them. Over the summer, she made me a bracelet and we elbow-fived.”

In a pre-COVID world, Youth Literacy Instructor Sara would meet with students each day at their school for a half hour to work on literacy. During the pandemic with schools closed, Sara is providing online sessions instead either before or after school.

But after a whole day doing schoolwork on a school-supplied tablet, Grethel is burned out. Even more, because English is her second language and because she reads below grade level, online learning has been particularly challenging and tiring.

“For my daughter things have gotten complicated because like with every child, she doesn’t pay attention, she’s easily distracted, so I feel that online classes do not work for her,” Norma explains. “We try to be on the lookout so she pays attention and try to constantly be with her for that reason … but sometimes [Grethel’s classes] and my classes are at the same time … In reality, it is very difficult for me.”

Further, it can be harder to follow along in a virtual lesson than an in-person class, especially for students who speak English as a second language. “It is difficult for me to help her because I can’t explain it to her because I understand two or three words but not 100% of the lecture,” Norma shares. “So, it has been very difficult for us to be able to help her with her homework.”

Norma says that Sara’s lessons have helped Grethel improve her literacy. “I feel she has improved a lot. She’s able to understand and follow along more [during school]. Even if she still gets lost at times.”

Although it’s been challenging, Grethel’s literacy has continued to improve during the pandemic because she’s getting the extra support she needs and she’s working hard to keep learning. When Grethel first started taking lessons with Sara, her literacy was at level 1. Now she’s at level 15!

Another thing that’s helped Grethel and her mom improve their English is the Mobile Library. Staff deliver personalized book choices every two weeks to participants around the St. Paul area. After a day of online learning for both mom and daughter, reading a book is a nice break from the screen.

When it comes to Neighborhood House, Norma says, “It’s a good [way] to learn English. It’s a good opportunity for people [to get help] if they don’t know anything, like where to go if they have a situation where they don’t have anything to eat or cover the cost of something.”

The family plans to continue using Neighborhood House programs, during and after the pandemic, to keep learning English so that they can participate more fully in their community. And Grethel is looking forward to the day when school and Neighborhood House classes switch back to in-person so she can hug her friends and teacher Sara again.

Please fill out and submit the form below to contact us.

Che Lia Lee | Early Childhood Instructor

Che Lia is a 2022 graduate of the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh’s Anthropology program, where she also served on the Multicultural Education Coalition. Prior to her time at Neighborhood House, Che Lia spent the previous five years working in elementary schools and early education classrooms.

  • Che Lia leads Small Steps Child Care classes, working with dual-language learning children ages one to five years old.

Fluent in English and Hmong, Che Lia’s personal interests include hiking, cooking, and spending time with loved ones.

Maiyer Thor | Child Development Specialist

Maiyer has been with Neighborhood House since 2020 when she served as an intern with the Food Market.

In 2021, Maiyer was hired to work at Neighborhood House and now conducts all online and home-based learning sessions, tailoring all lessons to each students’ individualized needs. She also assists in Skills for School preschool classes. Maiyer brings several years of experience as an early childhood teacher for other nonprofits to her role at Neighborhood House.

  • Maiyer earned a bachelor’s degree in social work from St. Catherine University.
  • She is a certified user of the Keys to Interactive Parenting Scale (KIPS)

Fluent in English and Hmong, Maiyer is the daughter of immigrants and the mother of three young children.

Valerie Dorschner | Early Childhood Instructor

Valerie has worked at Neighborhood House since 2004.

Valerie leads the Skills for School preschool program and is responsible for the curriculum. She has over 20 years of experience in early childhood working with parents and children, and has training and experience working with neurodiverse and dual language students.

  • Valerie is a licensed teacher with a bachelor’s degree in Education from the University of St. Thomas.
  • She holds licenses in elementary education and in early childhood education, and has several years of experience
    teaching elementary school.

Valerie enjoys her free time with her five children and one grandchild.

Amanda Williams | Parent and Early Childhood Education Program Manager

Amanda has served at Neighborhood House since 2014.

As the Parent and Early Childhood Education Program Manager, Amanda ensures the program continues to be culturally competent, responsive, and meets the needs of immigrant and under-resourced families with young children. She has
over 12 years of experience overseeing children and family programming in crisis nurseries, shelters, and early childhood education centers.

  • Amanda earned a bachelor’s degree in Human Services and Child Psychology from Metropolitan State University and is an
    alumni of a local nonprofit emerging leaders academy.
  • She is trained in Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE’s), Psychological First Aid, Adult Mental Health First Aid, and has
    completed Parents as Teachers Foundational training.

In her free time, Amanda enjoys traveling, visiting museums, exploring the outdoors, and trying out new local restaurants.

Victoria Campoverde

Victoria Campoverde is the program manager of Neighborhood House’s Latino Leadership Program. She is originally from Peru and was a licensed high school teacher in her home country.

Her extensive experience within the education sector exemplifies her commitment to education and families.

  • Currently, she serves as the Cultural Liaison between Columbia Heights School District and Anoka-Hennepin School District.
  • In 2008 Victoria began working with The Amherst H. Wilder Foundation’s Latino Leadership Program on adapting their curriculum for the Latinx community. Since then, she has continued working in the Latino Leadership Program after its 2020 transition to Neighborhood House.
  • Coauthor of Education: Our Best Legacy (EOBL), a school success program designed for parents or caregivers with one or more children in middle school. EOBL is part of the Partnering for School Success project (PSS) with the University of Minnesota’s Extension program.
  • Lead teacher and Program Director at Joyce Preschool.
  • A 25 on the Rise, Latino Leader recipient from the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in 2006.
  • Facilitator with different Latino parent programs in the Twin Cities.
  • President of Kuyayki Peru MN Cultural Association.

For Victoria it is important to value ones culture and cultivate ones heritage. She believes in the importance of empowering the community through her work with Neighborhood House and the Latino Leadership Program. During her free time Victoria enjoys dancing.

Winter / Spring Fresh Produce Distributions Events*

(November – May) take place at Metro State University in St. Paul. During each event, we distribute approximately 4,000-7,000 pounds of food to approximately 100 families on average.

For additional questions about the Food Markets, please visit our Frequently Asked Questions page.

Event guideline and details: Our fresh produce events are open to everyone!

  • Requirements: Not a thing, just yourself. An identification is not required to attend.
  • Recommendations: You will want to bring your own bags and a cart if you have one.
  • COVID-19: This event is held indoors, masks are encouraged.
  • Please note that your fist visit will require an onsite registration process that will take 5-10 minutes to complete.
  • Parking: You can park in the Metro State ramp parking for $5. Otherwise, street parking is available along 7th St. and Bates Avenue.
  • If available, please consider brining your own reusable bags. On average our visitors take home around 40 pounds of food. 

Location

Metropolitan State University

(Student Center Room)
101 690 E 7th St
St. Paul, MN 55106

DATES – EVERY 2ND WEDNESDAY

FROM JANUARY TO MAY
1/11, 2/8, 3/8, 4/12, 5/10
HOURS: 2:30PM – 4:00PM

 

* Weather permitting – If there are thunderstorms or excessive heat warnings, we may cancel the event and / or events. For more information and event cancellation updates, please call (651) 789-3630.

Still have questions? Kindly email Cassandra Kienbaum, Food Support Manager. 

Summer / Fall distributions* (Summer 2022)

From July to October, all are welcome to come pick up a variety of free fruits and vegetables for family and friends at all four locations. 

The distributions are held outdoors and are farmer’s market style. Events are open to all. No documentation or identification is required to participate.

For additional questions about Food Support, please visit our Frequently Asked Questions page

Event guideline and details: Our fresh produce events are open to everyone!

  • Requirements: Not a thing, just yourself. An identification is not required to attend.
  • Recommendations: You will want to bring your own bags and a cart if you have one. On average, visitors will leave with approximately 40 pounds of fresh produce per event. 
  • Please note that your fist visit will require an onsite registration process that will take 5-10 minutes to complete.
  • Parking: You can on the street at most of our locations. At the Wellstone Center, you may park in our ramp.
 

Locations

The Wellstone Center*

179 Robie Street
St. Paul, MN 55107

Dates

Every 2nd and 4th Wednesday
From July to October
7/13, 7/27, 8/10, 8/24, 9/14, 9/28, 10/12
Hours: 1pm – 2:30pm

No event on 10/26

Dayton's Bluff Elementary*

262 Bates Avenue
St. Paul, MN 55106

Dates

Every 2nd Thursday
From July to October
7/14, 8/11,  9/8, 10/13
Hours: 2:30pm – 4pm

Francis Basket Food Market*

1293 East Maynard Drive #410
St. Paul, MN 55116

Dates

Every 4th Monday
From July to October
7/25, 8/22, 9/26, 10/24
Hours: 2pm – 3pm

John A Johnson Elementary*

740 York Avenue
St. Paul, MN 55106

Dates

Every 3rd Thursday
From July to October
7/21, 8/18, 9/15, 10/20
Hours: 2:30pm – 4pm

* Weather permitting – If there are thunderstorms or excessive heat warnings, we may cancel the event and / or events. For more information and event cancellation updates, please call (651) 789-3630.

Still have questions? Kindly email Cassie Kienbaum, Food Support Program Manager.

Food Market Location

Francis Basket

1293 East Maynard Drive #410
St Paul, MN 55116
Phone: (651) 699-0986

Building Hours

Monday

9AM – 11:30AM

Tuesday & Friday

9AM – 11:30AM
1PM – 3:30PM

Highland / Sibley Manor

Food Market Location

The Wellstone Center

179 Robie Street
St. Paul, MN 55107
Phone: (651) 789-2500
Food Market Info: (651) 789-3630

Appointment Scheduling Hours

Monday – Friday

9AM – 4PM

Appointment Scheduling Hours

Monday – Friday

9AM – 11:30AM

1PM – 3:30PM

Wellstone Center Food Market

St. Paul Music Academy

27 Geranium Avenue East
St Paul, MN 55117
Service Connect: (651) 789-3602

Building Hours

Monday – Friday

9AM – 4PM

St. Paul Music Academy

John A. Johnson Elementary

740 York Avenue
St Paul, MN 55106
Service Connect: (651) 789-3602

Building Hours

Monday – Friday

9AM – 4PM

John A. Johnson Elementary

Highland / Sibley Manor Apartments

1300 West Maynard Drive
St Paul, MN 55116
Service Connect: (651) 789-3602

Building Hours

Monday – Friday

9AM – 4PM

Highland / Sibley Manor

Dayton's Bluff Elementary

262 Bates Avenue
St. Paul, MN 55106
Service Connect: (651) 789-3602

Building Hours

Monday – Friday

9AM – 4PM

Dayton's Bluff Elementary

Bruce Vento Elementary

409 Case Avenue East
St Paul, MN 55130
Service Connect: (651) 789-3602

Building Hours

Monday – Friday

9AM – 4PM

Bruce Vento Elementary

Main Campus

The Wellstone Center

179 Robie Street
St. Paul, MN 55107
Main Phone: (651) 789-2500
Service Connect: (651) 789-3602
Food Market Info: (651) 789-3630

Building Hours

Monday – Friday

8AM – 9PM

Saturday

8AM – 4PM

Sunday

NOON – 5PM

The Wellstone Center

Parking

The Wellstone Center Parking Ramp is located on the west side of the main building. The ramp has three levels with one elevator bank. Take the elevator to the first floor and follow the signs towards the information desk.
Parking is free.

Note: Building hours may be adjusted due to holidays, emergencies, program changes or weather. Check our website homepage and social media for possible building hour changes.