By Ukee Washington
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) –– A retired lawyer is helping immigrants fully participate in American life through a Fairhill non-profit called Providence Center. Part of its mission is to provide English lessons to anyone who wants them.
In the English class, students come from across the Spanish-speaking world: The Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Colombia.
Myriam Rodriguez immigrated from Bogotá, Colombia in the early 1980s and is now a U.S. citizen. She says better English will give her a better life.
“For me, it’s important, English. For communication, for the doctor,” said Myriam.
Not only is Myriam taking the class, she’s getting one-on-one help from Trudy Hackney, who volunteers her time to help the students practice.
“My purpose here is to get the students accustomed to most of the people that they’re are going to meet on the street, who don’t speak Spanish,” Trudy said.
Trudy doesn’t speak Spanish herself, but executive director David Chiles says that’s fine.
“What students are looking for is that immerse experience in English,” said Chiles, “just to be able to fully participate in the life of the community.”
Providence Center charges $40 for classes but waives the fee for those who can’t pay.
Chiles says the pair have a special relationship: “Just to hear the two of them laughing together and practicing, you can tell that they’ve really bonded,” he said.
“Myriam is one the most amazingly hard working individuals that I have ever encountered,” Trudy said.
Providence Center has been doing this work for about 20 years. They teach English to more than 250 students every year. Their website is http://providencecentershcj.org