Iraq refugees are eager to learn English at Cuyamaca College near San Diego, but classes are full, reports the Chronicle of Higher Education (subscribers only).
Because of its established community of Chaldean Christians from Iraq, East San Diego County draws one in four Iraqi refugees in the U.S., reports the Union-Tribune. English classes are swamped.
“It’s terrible to have to turn them away,” said Alicia Muñoz, the coordinator of the English as a Second Language program at Cuyamaca College in Rancho San Diego. “They are hungry to learn. It’s really heartbreaking.”
Cuyamaca College tripled the number of basic English classes by canceling more advanced classes.
Guillermo Colls, an ESL instructor, said 27 of 29 students registered for his reading class are from Iraq. An additional 40 students are on a waiting list.
Colls read a textbook passage to the class, stopping to discuss vocabulary words that included “functional,” “adjustable” and “ergonomic.” He told the students an “efficient” worker was careful and didn’t make errors.
“I give you the easiest meaning possible and you get the overall idea,” Colls said.
Grossmont College in El Cajon can’t add English-language classes because of state budget cuts, said department chairman Chuck Passentino. “They really need the help, and we can’t provide it,” Passentino said. “That’s what’s killing me.”
Cuyamaca’s valedictorian is an Iraqi refugee, reports East County Magazine. Bushra Rezoqi, who fled her native Iraq in 2001, and lived in Colombia and Ecuador before coming to the U.S., spoke at commencement ceremonies.
At the podium, Rezoqi said, “How is it possible I stand here today, speaking to you in my fourth language?”
The mother of three children began her Cuyamaca College journey by enrolling in English as a Second Language classes in 2006. She continued to take courses and received her associate’s degree in accounting, all while raising her three young children, running a household and working in her brothers’ market. Rezoqi even excelled in advanced composition as her English improved. She told graduates, “Do what’s in your heart, and you will succeed.”
A straight-A student, Rezoqi will go to San Diego State to earn an accounting bachelor’s degree.