The Storehouse of Collin County, a nonprofit that works to feed, clothe and care for those in need, has launched a program focused on the development of language skills, life skills, and job skills. Free and reduced-cost classes will be offered.
Thirty percent of classes for the program known as ‘The Academy’ will be offered internally. The remaining 70 percent will be offered through collaborations with local colleges, trade schools and other partnerships.
Working in partnership with Aspire (formerly LIFT and Aberg Center for Literacy), a nonprofit that provides curriculum, instructor training and student assessments, The Storehouse began a 10-week pilot program June 4. ESL classes are offered each Saturday through August 13. Class attendees pay $40 to cover the cost of the textbooks and other course materials. Scholarships are being provided.
Seventy-five students, the majority of whom are immigrants from Venezuela, Colombia, Bulgaria, and Brazil, are enrolled in the pilot. Initial assessments, which were conducted for placement of students within five classrooms, indicated that 52 percent have a college degree or higher but are unable to contribute to the workforce due to the language barrier.
According to Linda Johnson, CEO of Aspire, which collaborates with partners across the Dallas area, this is a unique situation.
“The majority of ESL students we serve are low literate in their native language,” said Johnson. “This is a well-educated group and well-disciplined, and we are excited to partner with The Storehouse and watch the students advance and achieve success.”
The idea for The Academy began in 2021 as part of The Storehouse’s monthly neighbor assessments created to help the team not only get to know the neighbors better but also to enable them to make informed decisions for planning services. Thirty-four percent of neighbors surveyed indicated interest in ESL classes.
“The Academy enables us to meet our neighbors right where they are and provide them with critical skills for long-term transformation,” said Ligia Urrego, director of The Storehouse Academy. “Language is our neighbors’ biggest barrier. When my husband and I came to the United States from Colombia, we each began our journeys with ESL classes before we could begin college. We know from personal experience that learning English will be transformative for each of them.”
Following the summer pilot, the program will officially begin in September. Fall classes include ESL Classes, Forklift and Workplace Safety Certification, computer classes, Modern Automotive and Repair Certificate and Administrative Professional Certificate, Navigating the School System. A diabetes class and a blood pressure class will also be offered in collaboration with Golden Cross.
“The Academy is going to change my life,” said Juan Hill, a student in the summer ESL pilot program. “I am not only learning English but making long lasting friendships. The volunteer teachers welcome me with so much love every week and give me all the tools for my learning. The Storehouse cares for me and my family in such a special way, and I will cherish all they do in my heart forever.”
The Storehouse, founded in 2009, provides short-term assistance and long-term transformation to residents of Collin County. Its new program joins three established initiatives: the Seven Loaves Food Pantry, Joseph’s Coat Clothing Closet, and Project Hope. Agency leaders envision expanding capacity of The Academy in the future.
“We would love to expand the program and add additional classrooms, but we need additional volunteer teachers as well as monetary donations to meet the overwhelming response,” added Urrego.