Learning English Through the Radio - and For Free
After multiple attempts at learning English, Martha Juarez turned to Spanish-language radio in Denver for help. The Mexican-born Juarez now has the confidence to translate for friends.
"I learned English for my daughters and for me, and my job," says the mother of three, who credits her success to hard work and her kids' school district, Denver Public Schools (DPS).
DPS is in its second year of a partnership with Mexican Americans Thinking Together (MATT), a Texas-based organization that's developed a way for adults in the United States to learn English from the comfort of their homes - and for free. It's called Maestro En Casa, a program which works with Spanish-language radio stations to broadcast lessons three times a week.
Salvador Carrera, DPS' director general for multicultural outreach, says the basis of the curriculum is two-pronged; to help students' parents learn the language their kids will speak once they start school and to help them navigate things like the school system and healthcare.
"It's a social integration, English-language learning program that broadcasts the lessons over the radio airwaves," explains Carrera, "So parents...don't have to worry about travel, they don't have to worry about...who's going to take care of the kids."
With a population around 80,000, DPS is Colorado's second largest school district. According to its figures, 40 percent of its students speak Spanish.
Maestro en Casa has been a perfect and popular fit for its demographics, Carrera said. About 220 people graduated from the program last year. This year, Carrera says, 1,000 people registered in one day - a figure that gives his office staff hope that perhaps as many as 5,000 adults will try a course.
Radio stations in seven cities throughout Colorado, Nevada and Texas are currently airing the lessons. Six books are given to registered participants, and the courses run for four weeks.
But participants don't have to live in the three states to enroll - the lessons are also offered on the DPS and MATT's website.
"We're committed to helping parents realize their dreams and their dreams of helping their children" Carrera said.
Juarez says she now attends school board meetings and even translates for fellow Spanish-speaking parents. She says her new skill has given her the confidence to register for college-level language classes.
The program launched October 12th, but participants can still register.
"We're not going to put any barriers for anybody," Carrera said. "If they want to learn, they can learn."
Alicia Acuña is a Fox News correspondent, based out of the Denver bureau.
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