Hispanic Heritage Month: Bronx Community College offering immersive 5-day-a-week ESL program

BRONX, New York (WABC) -- Call them two immigrants on a mission: Rafael Gonzalez wants to be a math teacher, while Belkis Urena has her own goals.

"I would like a degree in radiology," Urena said. "That is my next step."

Urena and Gonzalez both earned college degrees in their home country of the Dominican Republic.

What they don't have is a firm grasp of English, and that's what brought them to Bronx Community College.

They're taking a unique English as a Second Language program called CLIP, CUNY Language Immersion Program. It's an immersive, five-day-a-week college-prep approach that differs from other ESL programs.

"We do a lot more reading, a lot more writing, because that is what they are going to be doing in college," CLIP instructor Leslie Degiere said. "But the students also do presentations."

Degiere has spent the last 17 years teaching aspiring students how to speak, read, and write English.

Rhode-Elise St. Jacques also serves as a CLIP instructor. The Haitian immigrant speaks three languages and has a keen understanding of the challenges faced by her students.

The students are still learning remotely because of the coronavirus pandemic. They say they know that professional fulfillment comes after educational achievement.

The students range in age from teenagers to moms and dads in their 40s and 50s.

Gonzalez is a 53-year-old father of three. He hopes this program can help him achieve his dream.

RELATED | Our America: Todos Unidos | Resources, organizations supporting Hispanic community in our area

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