Since 2018, Cairn has served the outside community through its Community English Learning Program (CELP). Organized by School of Education Professor Marika Ravin, CELP has joyfully taught adults seeking to learn or improve on their English every Wednesday evening during the academic year. Students are divided into groups, each group representing a level of English the student knows—one being very little and five being more advanced. Many of the volunteers that assist with teaching lessons and creating engaging activities are Cairn students.
This year, the CELP community has seen tremendous growth in attendance due to the war in Ukraine. As refugees come in, CELP has opened its arms wide to accommodate. Within the five different levels, class sizes can vary from six students to 40, primarily consisting of Ukrainians. With two or three volunteers in each classroom, they spend time opening the class with a fun question or prompt. Not only does this help them practice speaking English, it also builds a strong community. Students have the opportunity to know their fellow classmates as well as their teachers. After the prompts, each classroom has a unique activity that engages with the student in a way they best understand. The level five class is currently reading through Malcom Gladwell’s Outliers in order to practice reading, comprehension, and discussion. The level two classroom practices grammar from workbooks as volunteers walk around to offer help. CELP also offers a room for the youngest children to stay and play while the parents learn. Currently, over 50 children are enrolled.
Marika, in awe of the support and help CELP has received this year, says “I just remember that this is God’s program.” With the sudden flow of Ukrainians desiring to learn English, the CELP program was in desperate need of more help. The need was quickly met, and each class has at least two volunteers.
Joshua Maier, a level four volunteer and history major, says that during one of his classes, they asked a prompt discussion question: “What is something that made you happy this week?” A student responded “I’m happy for everything in my life. Anything that happens to me here is so much better than my loved ones in Ukraine.” Despite the hardships many of the students face, Joshua says “I am encouraged by their dedication to making a better life for themselves and their children in this new country.”
Level five volunteer Jeff Endres has been working with CELP for three years now. Throughout the experience, he says “As a TESOL major, getting to know the students has been a highlight for me in my time volunteering, as well as being a great opportunity for gaining experience teaching English.”
The CELP program has consistently demonstrated a care and passion for serving that is evident not just in the program as a whole, but also in the individual volunteers who set aside their time to plan lessons and get to know their classes deeply.
Those who are interested in CELP courses can learn more and register at cairn.edu/CELP.