Ten years ago, Claude R. Smith answered a call for help from the Migration and Refugee Services of Catholic Community Service in Baton Rouge, LA. Budget cuts had necessitated a 75% employee lay-off and the English as a Second Language (ESL) program was destined to be terminated. Though lacking previous training in ESL, Claude, a retired engineer, brought his organizational skills, empathetic interaction with students and a determination to keep language classes open to refugees from Migration and Refugee Services.
Claude volunteers 40-60 hours per week, despite battling terminal cancer. His work has enabled the program to expand from 15 students in 1987 to an annual 500 students representing 40 different nationalities. His services range from purchasing supplies with his own money to developing a computerized progress tracking system which has assisted staff in writing grant proposals for continued funding. From performing diagnostic testing on immigrants and refugees to providing program participants needed transportation to and from classes, Claude steps up to any challenge presented.
His accomplishments are evident in the hundreds of students that have gained sufficient English language skills and have gone on to become employed and productive members of society.