America 101: Cultural Orientation at LSS

October 19, 2021

Two PowerPoint slides shown to students in Cultural Orientation class

Adjusting to life in a new country is no easy task. New arrivals to the United States must learn new practices and ways of being to survive and thrive. To help with this transition, LSS offers Cultural Orientation class every month. The class is offered to clients who have just arrived in the U.S. and teaches essential skills and knowledge about American life. It covers topics including home safety, American laws, banking and finances, education and healthcare.

One special feature of this class is its use of guest speakers. LSS invites community members to Cultural Orientation to lend their expertise on pertinent topics. We have law enforcement officers, health professionals and financial experts come in to speak to the students. Not only do the students benefit from the insights of these guest speakers but they are also introduced to trusted community members that they can call upon later for help and support. Building these bridges helps make the transition to life in Sioux Falls easier for new arrivals.

Community building is done not only through guest speakers but also through the dynamic, multicultural nature of the class itself. Students in the class come from many different countries, cultures, languages and backgrounds but they are all there for the same reason: to learn how to live and thrive in their new home. This shared purpose helps the students bond and build community in the class. Cultural Orientation’s teacher, Silke Hansen, notes, “One of my favorite things about Orientation is that new arrivals from different countries meet and get to know each other which might not have happened otherwise.”

Cultural Orientation is taught for two weeks every month from Monday through Friday for 3 hours per day.

Kate Harris ESL Instructor & Career Navigator
LSS Center for New Americans
P: 605-731-2000 | F: 605-731-2059
300 East 6th Street, Suite 100 Sioux Falls, SD 57103

Celebrating Student Achievements!

January 9, 2019

I Go to School Just Like My Child! – Back to School for Adult Learners

September 1, 2015

This week all of our blog posts will be following a ‘Back to School’ theme from the perspective of each of our departments.  Check back each day for something new.  For today, it’s the Center for New Americans….

Worried looks, eager faces, glances at other students. Those are the typical images of children on the first day of school, right? Well those images are true even for adult students! Some are scared and unsure of what class will be like, while others can’t wait for class to begin and have their notebook and pen all ready to go before the teacher even enters the room.

Here at the Center for New Americans, we offer a variety of classes for adult learners. Classes like: English as a Second Language, Citizenship preparation, Cultural Orientation, and S.T.E.P (job training). I sat down with Instructor Silke Hansen to learn more about the first day of school.

Before the first day of class, each student is tested on their English skills using the standardized BEST Plus test. Their score determines their placement in class. There are 4 levels to the English classes with 1 being the lowest and 4 being the highest. Our classes are offered year-round so there is not one official start date, but new students begin class on the second and fourth Monday of every month.

Students ask questions in class 3.

Students ask questions in class 3.

That first day of class is full of new information. Often, teachers review the rules and appropriate etiquette for the classroom. New students go through introductions and tell the class something about themselves. In Hansen’s lower classes, it is something as simple as “My name is… and I come from….”   For higher level classes though, they may describe their family, job or hobby. Then class begins as normal.

English class time is 2 hours long and students learn both oral English skills and literacy skills. Daytime classes are offered 4 times a week and nighttime classes are offered twice a week.   When their instructor feels that the student has sufficiently absorbed all of the material, the student again takes the BEST Plus test and their new score determines if they “graduate” into the next level.

For many of our students this is the first opportunity in their life to really go to school. Some may have attended school when they were very little but then war broke out and the schools were closed. Others were never able to afford school, as public schools in the American sense don’t exist in some countries. To finally have the chance to attend school is amazing for them. The pride on their faces when they tell you that they “go to school just like my child” shines so brightly. And they can’t get enough! Our students continually express the desire for English classes to be offered every single day, even weekends! Students are also asking for additional resources to use outside of class, like websites or apps.

If you are interested in volunteering as a classroom assistant, please sign up or call 605-731-2000!

Poster of reasons why students came to Sioux Falls.

Poster of reasons why students came to Sioux Falls.  Education is the top reason.



Written by Kristyne Walth

S.T.E.P. Up to Work

November 4, 2014

One of the main goals of refugee resettlement is self-sufficiency for the individual or family and a big part of self-sufficiency is becoming employed. However, for many of our refugees, it is not as simple as just looking through the Help Wanted section in the newspaper and applying. Having lived in a refugee camp for most of their lives, some refugees do not have any work history and others were not able to finish school; reasons which can hinder the employment process. This is where our Education Department steps in to help. Five years ago, the Center for New Americans introduced S.T.E.P. classes into our program. S.T.E.P. stands for Skills That Employ People and these classes focus on skills needed for employment. There are two main types of S.T.E.P. classes – skill-based and work-focused. The skill-based classes teach skills applicable in many different areas of work. We have classes that focus on interview skills, workplace technology, and even measurement. (Many other parts of the world use the metric system instead of the US standard system for measurement.) The work-focused classes teach skills specific to one area of work like food service, manufacturing, and housekeeping.

Patient Care Students drink coffee

Two Patient Care students enjoying traditional coffee during their class celebration

One work-focused class, Introduction to Patient Care, recently finished. Patient Care teaches the basic skills to work in healthcare. The class focuses on learning about pain and pain management, proper safety techniques, psychological health and caring for the elderly. Instructor Carol Hudson says, “This class spends a little more time on the vocabulary [of the American health system] than it does on physical experience.” But this is what many of the students need. Carol explains that many of the students in Introduction to Patient Care already have some medical training from their former lives and that for them this class is a stepping stone to an actual career. “Many refugees see that healthcare is a growing industry and that there are many opportunities, especially if they have prior experience.” After successful completion, some students decide to enter into a Certified Nursing Assistant Program at one of the local colleges or others may find work in the hospitals as a patient care assistant.

Patient Care Class

Introduction to Patient Care class celebration

Carol, a former nurse herself, has enjoyed teaching Introduction to Patient Care classes for many years. This most recent class has been extra memorable for her because of how inquisitive the group was. “This is the first time I was unable to finish all of the coursework on-time! They just had so many great questions and discussions,” says Carol. The students seemed to enjoy it as well. They organized a celebration party and assigned each student a particular food item to bring.


Kristyne Walth, Volunteer Coordinator, LSS Center for New Americans

Global Service in Sioux Falls

March 31, 2014

A low, constant hum could be heard coming from the Advanced English classroom last week Tuesday as six Dakota Wesleyan University students conversed with advanced English students. Dr. Alisha Vincent, Assistant Professor of Leadership and Public Service and Director of the McGovern Center for Leadership and Public Service at Dakota Wesleyan, shared why she chose to get her students involved at the LSS Refugee and Immigration Center (RIC) as part of their class:

The course is an elective in our general education curriculum called Global Service. My preference, as a professor, is to incorporate experiential learning opportunities for my students whenever appropriate. I thought that the students would learn about people from other countries and cultures best by interacting with them directly. LSS is an ideal place for my students to get to know incredible people from so many different parts of the world while offering their service as classroom aids in the ESL [English as a Second Language] program.

IMG_0339 Read the rest of this entry »

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