Central American Refugee Center – (CARECEN) – New York

United States

Challenges and Successes at CARECEN in 2022

At a Glance: CARECEN NY

Off2Class and CARECEN NY have been working together for over five years. Based on Long Island, the Central American Refugee Center (CARECEN) is a nonprofit working in New York that empowers newcomers, refugees and immigrants through legal services, community education, and advocacy. Its work aims to reduce marginalization and provide access to education and social services.

In 2017, the Off2Class team visited Long Island for an inspirational tour of the CARECEN NY HQ. We have worked in partnership with CARECEN NY ever since: powering services for newcomers and weathering several funding cycles. 

In 2022, CARECEN NY re-launched its English program for newcomers and refugees after securing a new “US Federal Budget Community Service Block Grant to alleviate poverty”. English language acquisition in the USA is a key step toward finding better jobs that pay more. For this reason, CARECEN NY is running an English language program involving 120 adult students per quarter.

Challenges for launching the new English Program at CARECEN NY

Relaunching the English Program 100% remotely

Before COVID, the English program at CARECEN NY was mainly in-person, with some virtual learning. However, on re-launching the program in 2022, it has become completely remote.

“This has been a huge benefit to our community for accessing the classes no matter where they are or what is happening with COVID numbers,” said Melanie Creps, Community Programs Manager at CARECEN. “However, it also presents challenges with our community who might have lack of resources to good devices like computers or phones or reliable internet, or perhaps have low literacy.”

Empowering teachers and volunteers

The new English program has a big remit, involving 120 students, 2 teachers, and 8 volunteer tutors per quarter. These volunteers may not have experience in teaching and therefore need support and training. 

Teaching adult learners with different English levels

All students on the program fall under the Federal Poverty guidelines, with 100% being “low-income”. In addition, some never have completed high school or even elementary school. This means they may have different literacy levels and English levels. The students may be immigrants, refugees or newcomers. 

Offering meaningful supplementary learning

As well as attending classes, to comply with the funding requirements, students must complete supplemental learning hours. The CARECEN NY team needed meaningful self-study materials that did not demand too much teacher preparation time.

Solutions and successes at CARECEN

Delivering the program at full capacity

As of May 2022, the program is at full capacity with 120 students! The team is pleased with how much learning is being achieved. Melanie said, “In our first quarter, over half of the students completed over 75 hours of language learning, averaging about 9 hours of learning each week.”

Upskilling students with technology skills

In order to deliver the program remotely, the team at CARECEN NY is supporting students to access technology equipment and increase their confidence in using digital tools. Teachers are offering one-on-one coaching over the phone, disseminating information about resources available to them, and creating training videos to learn how to use platforms like Zoom and Off2Class.

“The learning curve for our new program, new teachers, and new students has been huge,” said Melanie. “But Off2Class is very responsive to our questions and needs as we onboard and coach new teachers and students to use the platform.”

Implementing the Off2Class Curriculum and associated Homework Assignments

The Off2Class curriculum is ideal for teachers and volunteers with less experience. It guides the teacher through each lesson, and homework activities revise the lesson content. Melanie said these resources “significantly” cut down the time teachers spend on planning. 

Offering age-appropriate resources for all English levels

Off2Class lessons are available for complete beginners, including functional language skills and the English alphabet. While many materials for complete beginners are aimed at children, Off2Class lessons are age-appropriate for adult learners. 

Measuring student progress

Embedded tools allow teachers to measure student progress, for example using the industry-leading Placement Test. Melanie said, “We use the language level test as a placement test for new students in classes, as well as a benchmark to see growth at the end of each quarter.” 

Providing support where it is needed most

The past two years have been extremely challenging for immigrants and for the organizations that support them. Thankfully, Off2Class has been able to support CARECEN to deliver high-quality instruction where it is needed most. For more information about how Off2Class can provide resources for NGOs and Institutions, book a consultation with our friendly advisors.

"Off2Class helps students gain tech literacy and autonomy through online learning tools that they can take with them when they leave our program"

Quote owner  Becca Reed, ESOL Services Coordinator, CARECEN