Florence G. Phillips, a former Peace Corps and VISTA volunteer, is the founder/director of the ESL (English as a Second Language) In-Home Program of Northern Nevada. Her innovated efforts in education over the last five years have positively impacted a great number of people living in five Northwest Nevada counties. Florence saw that many immigrants cannot speak English and desperately want to learn, but for a variety of reasons are unable to attend formal classes.
In February 2004, Florence started volunteering her time by tutoring students one-on-one in English in their homes at no cost. However, she soon realized that there was a much greater need than she could handle alone. She then started mobilizing unpaid community volunteer tutors, training them and matching them with other students. Tutors meet twice a week in the students’ homes since many do not have transportation.
Today, she coordinates activities of 85 tutors and 151 students. Florence works tirelessly recruiting, training, inspiring tutors and then matching them with students from her ever-growing waiting list. She receives 2-3 calls a day from people who want to learn English. She also works raising funds to cover the cost of instructional material which keeps the program at no-cost-to-student. The curriculum used is the highly regarded “Laubach Way to English/Reading” series of books in which she was trained as a Peace Corps Volunteer.
Her ongoing efforts have yielded tremendous returns in that these students become more productive members in their community. They are more engaged in their children’s educational life. The role model that the parents and grandparents are providing to better themselves educationally will inspire their children to also achieve educational goals, making this program intergenerational. Although most students are Latino, others come from Asia, Europe and elsewhere. Since the program’s inception, it has helped students pass the U.S. Citizenship exam, obtain GEDs, find jobs or get promoted, encouraged parents to help their children with homework and communicate with teachers and given students the ability to shop in English speaking stores and communicate with medical personnel.
The program has been so successful that word has spread among the immigrant community and there is now a waiting list of 105 people who want to learn English and need tutors. Through her selfless efforts and determination over the past five years, Florence is making a positive and lasting contribution to our community. Her goal is for the program to continue to address the unmet needs that exist in the five counties currently being served, and intends to expand into two additional rural counties so that non-English speaking adults there can learn English and become more productive in their communities.