News & Stories
Rachel Bascope-Vidal and Janelly Chevere
December 7, 2023

Hidden Gem: Berry’s English as a Second Language (ESL) Program

Conventionally, courses on college campuses finish by the late afternoon. But on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6:00-7:30 p.m., the first floor of Evans Hall is a hub of activity. English language learners from ages 15 to 60+ fill the classrooms to learn from Berry students who run the ESL program.

Student director Rachel Bascope-Vidal, who has been a part of the ESL program for nearly four years, says, “The goal is to help the minorities in the Rome community learn English at no cost or pre-requisites. The majority of our ESL students are Central American, specifically from Guatemala; however, we do have students from other Spanish-speaking countries and countries in Asia.”

 “Our program is happy to offer students five different levels of English proficiency they can place into,” adds assistant student director Janelly Chevere. “Level one covers the basics, level two focuses more on grammar, level three covers complex grammar, and levels four and five are for advanced speakers to focus more on conversations and to refine their skills.”

Under the guidance of Associate Professor of Spanish Julia Barnes, Rachel and Janelly have restructured the program to be more uniform in its rules and procedures. Such efforts have also increased community participation.

“In the past, on our pre-registration day, we would only get a maximum of 15 new students, but this year we had 65 new students register, not including returning students or those who signed up on the first day of class,” Rachel explains. “We were able to reach pre-pandemic numbers.”

Rachel and Janelly have also collaborated on expanding the ESL program’s marketing. They share flyers with local businesses and announce classes on the ESL Facebook page. “I also post our achievements, celebrations, information, shoutouts and when other programs help ESL,” Rachel notes.

Actively changing lives in the Rome community, the student directors and their team pour hours into the program each week. Being a part of ESL means being a part of something bigger than yourself — having compassion and eagerness to help others grow and become confident in their English speaking,” Rachel says.

Janelly adds, “Through ESL, we are able to help eliminate the language barrier and isolation that so many individuals face because of it.”

As a senior, Rachel is looking forward to a career as a paralegal after graduation. She hopes that her time with the ESL program will enable her to concentrate in immigration work and continue assisting the Hispanic community. Janelly, a junior, is preparing to take over the ESL program next year. She says, “For me, this position is not just a service site or a job, but somewhere I love to be. When you find a place like that, it’s not work.”

With the spring semester just around the corner, Rachel and Janelly are ready to take the ESL program to the next level. By getting the word out, they hope to fill more classrooms and increase funding to serve anyone who wants to learn — whether building the language skills to shop at the supermarket, converse with neighbors or interview for a job.

Story by junior Zach Pishock

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