Pictured: Simon Mayingi, teaching a group of “New Mainers” in the conference room at the South Portland Howard Johnson Hotel last month.
Prior to the pandemic, South Portland (SoPo) Adult Education had been offering English learning classes for several years in a donated space in the West End of South Portland for new Mainers living in that area who needed to learn English. This was in addition to evening classes offered at South Portland High School.
More recently, with the influx of new Mainers arriving here to live, SoPo Adult Ed has been trying something new to help break down barriers for some who may not be able to make it to South Portland High School for evening classes.
Like many people who are seeking to extend their education or even take on full or part-time work, transportation and childcare can be an enormous barrier. Knowing this is the case for many of the new Mainers living in temporary housing in South Portland, the SoPo Adult Education Program collaborated with the Howard Johnson, a location providing temporary housing, to arrange a space to offer basic English to residents on a weekly basis.
“Maybe the best description of the English being offered is, “Survival English,” said South Portland Adult Education Director David Morrill. “Greetings and introduction, recognizing signs and the English word associated with it,” he added.
“Opportunities to gain some basic English skills are an important part of supporting Maine’s newest residents to thrive here,” said April Perkins, Maine Department of Education World Languages & ESOL/Bilingual Programs Specialist. “Removing potential barriers, like transportation and childcare, shows a true commitment to solutions-oriented thinking and responding to the in-the-moment needs of these valued community members. The work South Portland Adult Education is doing is planting the seeds necessary for successful transition to life in Maine – including future employment, academic pursuits, and civic engagement.”
In addition to SoPo Adult Ed’s efforts to provide flexibility in educational offerings for Maine’s new residents, the community of South Portland is providing many other services, community health, social services, in addition to South Portland School Department and surrounding school districts who have been busy transitioning younger new Mainers into the schools.
Read more about this effort in the local news: