Group English Class

Community English: Anna’s Story

As Literacy Network celebrates 50 years in 2024, we also mark another milestone: our Community English (CE) program’s 20th anniversary! The program has grown significantly in recent years; 2023 was CE’s biggest yet, with 538 students participating. Longtime CE partner Stacy Darga, Site Coordinator of Sun Prairie’s Westside Elementary School, shares one of her most cherished CE class memory below:

Anna (not her real name), was married and had a child that attended our school. They were living with an individual who was controlling and often abusive.  One of the ways in which he controlled her was that he did not want her to learn English. She and her child were able to walk to our school for classes as he believed that they were volunteering in the evening at school, when in fact she was learning English. They felt safe at our school and Anna was able to form a support system in the class. When she opened up to a fellow classmate that she essentially was sneaking out of the house to come to class, as well as some of the other abuse they were experiencing, the classmate encouraged her to seek protection for her and her child. So she and the classmate went to our local police station and filed a restraining order.  All the other steps were taken – school social workers, CPS, etc were all notified and Anna’s partner was arrested.

Anna and her daughter were able to stay with this classmate, who had now become a dear friend, until she could find stable housing and a job to support their little family. She shared all of this with the instructor from Literacy Network that evening after class and revealed that she would never have had the confidence to make this change in her life without the support of her classmates as well as all the confidence she had gained with learning English to take the next needed steps. 

Both the instructor and I were in tears as she shared this with me as I could see firsthand the amazing impact that these classes had on the students and their families. What a different story it could have been for Anna and her child had these Adult ESL classes not been offered in our community.

Anna has now become a volunteer in Dane County helping to empower other immigrants as they acclimate and settle in Dane County and her daughter is in high school and thriving! 


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