Three levels of English language instruction for adults are scheduled to resume in the fall, thanks to a successful grant application by the director of English language learning for the Bedford Public Schools.
Carrie Powers confirmed this week that she has been notified of a three-year, $60,000 award from the Cummings Foundation of Woburn, one of the largest private foundations in New England.
Plans call for two semesters each of beginning, intermediate, and advanced English language, Powers said. She will be teaching the advanced class, which will include a track to the citizenship test if the demand is there.
The free 14 weekly Thursday evening sessions will take place at Bedford High School, and will be filled first-come, first-served, Powers said. Each class will accept up to 25 people. Students do not have to be Bedford residents, she said.
The teacher carried out a similar adult program that ended two years ago, backed by a federal grant. “We had 185 participants over the three times we offered it for one semester,” she said, adding that she expects the demand will continue, as there are more than 100 children in the Bedford schools, representing 34 cultural backgrounds, who are designated as English language learners.
Powers, an experienced grant writer, said she applied in the fall of 2022. “I was getting inquiries about adult education every week,” she related. “One man who spoke only Mandarin came to see me at Lane School. So many people are counting on it. There’s a need in the community.”
Powers said it took her a month to complete the grant application, with help from Director of Finance Julie Kirrane and Maura Varney, financial operations manager in the business office. Teachers helped with proofreading and editing, she added.
After the initial filing, Powers said, she received a request from Cummings to write more. “I knew we had made the second round,” she said, adding, “It was like writing another grant.”
Two teachers are lined up for the beginner and intermediate levels. In addition, volunteers work one-to-one with students. “Christine Smith has been an amazing volunteer coordinator,” Powers said. “We had 14 volunteers in our last session. It’s truly a community-based program.”
Anyone interested in serving as a volunteer may write Powers at [email protected].
The three-part structure “will give people a huge possibility to become more literate in English,” as they move from one level to the next, Powers said.
Earlier last week, Powers and her staff sponsored her department’s third annual awards night, attended by about 300 people, to celebrate the English language learners’ achievements. She recounted that when she announced the Cummings grant, “there was a roar of applause.”
She plans to publicize the upcoming offerings through the Recreation Department’s distributions, email to all student households, and at the library.
Speakers at the awards night presented bilingually, Powers said, and students from John Glenn Middle School “talked about something in their culture that was meaningful to them.” Interpretation was provided in several languages. A highlight was the musical presentation of “We Are the World” by the Lane School chorus and teachers.