New American Student Spotlight: Carlota Zetino Tovar

March 9, 2021

Sioux Falls is filled with generous businesses and organizations that partner together to better serve the people living in this city. One such business is Xcel Energy. Xcel Energy has supported high-level adult ESL education here at the LSS Center for New Americans for over 10 years. One way we thought we’d say “Thank you!” is by highlighting one of our most dedicated students, Carlota Zetino Tovar. Carlota has graduated into our high level speaking, writing, and citizenship classes, and because of grant support from Xcel Energy, she gets the opportunity to learn daily by working on her literacy and vocabulary skills.

Carlota in Zoom English Class

After our Zoom class, Carlota stayed on the computer with me so I could ask her some questions about her life and her commitment to her education.

Carlota is originally from Santa Ana, El Salvador – “the little country in Central America,” she tells me, and she came to Sioux Falls seven years ago. I asked her why she came to the US, and her answer was family. “My family lives here in Sioux Falls. Only me … was staying in El Salvador. They helped me for immigration to the United States.” Carlota has five sisters in Sioux Falls, and her husband has very recently come to live permanently with her here. “My husband says he is too old to try this new living, but I am happy he is here.” Now Carlota has her whole family near her.

Before Carlota came to South Dakota, she worked for thirty-two impressive years in the Santa Ana health care industry. She was a nurse for twelve years and then worked as a psychologist for twenty years. Her caring and capable nature certainly shines through in the classroom, and it’s easy to see her as a caregiver. Carlota currently works in a cafeteria and she was recently moved to the cashier position because her English skills have improved so much

Carlota started taking English classes at LSS because of language barriers she wanted to overcome. “I need English classes for more opportunities for work. It’s necessary for different relationships everywhere: for the business, for the bank, for the clinic.”

Carlota is very happy to be living in Sioux Falls. “Yes, I like it! It’s a beautiful city, it’s little. For me, it’s not dangerous. There is no problem for the traffic. It’s different than a big city. I am liking Sioux Falls very much.”
Carlota has a big goal she is working toward: getting her American citizenship. She is currently taking citizenship classes on the weekends studying American history, government, and the N400 interview. “I am grateful I can study the citizenship. It’s important for me. When I get my citizenship, I will have more opportunities. For example, for voting, for choosing the president.”

Carlota is a shining example of a motivated and empowered ESL student. The LSS Center for New Americans is thankful for Xcel Energy for helping make Carlota’s dreams a reality!

Thank you, Xcel Energy!

Written By:

Lindy Obach, ESL Instructor
LSS Center for New Americans
P: 605-731-2000
300 E. 6th St., Sioux Falls, SD 57105

Strengthening Individuals, Families & Communities

Learning 21st Century Skills at The Center for New Americans

January 21, 2020

googleclassIf you are like nearly every other human being on this planet, you probably use Google and YouTube about 50 times a day. BUT, did you know that there’s so much more to these two miraculous sites than just typing in some words and hoping you find what you need?

The LSS Center for New Americans is excited to announce TWO new technology classes that will focus exclusively on using Google and YouTube during the month of February! These classes, “Intro to Google and YouTube,” are open to all members of the community, so we invite everyone to come check it out and learn something new!

googleclassTeacher Becca, who will be leading the advanced evening class, says: “For students who have a lot of ideas and are motivated to create an online presence, this class will give them a launchpad to do so. We will navigate what Google has to offer, creating the time, space and confidence for students to start their own Youtube Channels.”

Intro to Google and YouTube Class (Advanced)
Mondays Nights 6 – 8 pm on:
• Feb. 3
• Feb. 10
• Feb. 17
• Feb. 24
At the LSS Center for New Americans
300 E. 6th St.

If you want to join this advanced class, please come ONE time for a pre-test on
• Monday, Jan. 27th, 6 pm
• Monday, Feb. 3rd at 6 pm

*You MUST pass the pre-test to attend this class.

googleclassAnother, more beginning class will also be offered in the afternoons. This class will cover  creating gmail accounts and using Google and YouTube. “We are so excited to offer this classgoogleclass as so many students have expressed in an interest in learning these skills. We hope they walk away with the tools they need to better share knowledge and make connections,” says Teacher Kate, who will be teaching this basic class in the afternoons.

Intro to Google and YouTube Class (Basic)
Monday – Thursday
12:30 – 2:30 pm
Feb. 17 – 27
At the LSS Center for New Americans
300 E. 6th St.

If you want to join this beginning class, please come ONE time for a pre-test on
• Tuesday, Feb. 11th, 12:30 pm
• Wednesday, Feb. 12th, 12:30 pm

*You MUST pass the pre-test to attend this class.

So, join us at The Center for New Americans to brush up on your computer skills and learn some new ones!

Written by:
Lindy Obach | LSS Center for New Americans
ESL Instructor
300 E 6th St | Sioux Falls, SD 57103
1-866-242-2447 toll free


New Americans-About-Town

October 1, 2019

There are a million wonderful things about the Center for New Americans, but the two main wonderful things are our students and their willingness to jump right in to their new community. This was the case, again, when a group of teachers and students went to the Downtown Public Library and attended a City Council Meeting during the evening block of classes a few weeks ago.. These were both new experiences for our students, but they enjoyed every minute of it.

At the library, the students learned about the services the library offered and then got library cards. And with those cards, they checked out books, books on tape, and DVDs. Oh, do we love the library. Thank you, Librarian Amber, for showing us the library ropes!

After some time exploring the library, we then walked two blocks south to the Carnegie Town Hall to attend a City Council meeting –all of us (teachers included!) for the very first time.

New Americans About Town

Students pose in front of the Carnegie Town Hall.


The City Council meeting that night seemed to be most about city improvement, so we listened in as Sioux Falls citizens gave their input on the ash trees, downtown transportation, and road construction; then we watched as the Council members discussed establishing a new dog park downtown and expanding the bike trail.

New American About Town

Students and Teachers inside the City Council room, waiting for the meeting to start.

Overall, it was another great night with our students and everyone experienced something new and important!

Written by Lindy Obach | LSS Center for New Americans
ESL Instructor
300 E 6th St | Sioux Falls, SD 57103
1-866-242-2447 toll free

Strengthening Individuals, Families and Communities

New Americans Visit the Library!

September 3, 2019

“The only thing you absolutely have to know is the location of the library.”              Albert Einstein

I always knew I wanted to be an English teacher – always. So you can probably guess that one of my most favorite places in the world is a public library. Whenever I moved to a new city, the very first thing I did was go get my library card. Ben Franklin did a lot for our country, but I rank his founding of free libraries as #1.

New Americans Visit the Library!

The gang in front of the Downtown Library.

Imagine my delight, then, in taking a fun and diverse group of students to the Sioux Falls Downtown Public Library, all of them for their very first time! Our school is right on the beautiful river walk, so Teacher Mary, Volunteer Karen, and I walked along the Big Sioux to 8th Street with everyone, and then two blocks later, we were at the library.

FIRST, though, we had to stop and take a picture underneath the “Arc of Dreams.” I sure can’t think of a better group to stand beneath this special sculpture than these brave people who have survived the unimaginable and are now realizing their dream of living in freedom in a safe and healthy community.

New Americans Visit the Library!

American dreamers underneath the Arc of Dreams!

The Downtown librarians greeted us warmly upon our arrival and ushered us into a conference room to explain the day: library tours, getting library cards, and time to explore.

New Americans Visit the Library!

Three smart and helpful librarians took care of us!

I really couldn’t have asked for a better day. I just about burst with pride as I watched them get their library cards—just think of how much their worlds expanded with that little piece of plastic. One student told me, “Teacher, I think I will come here a lot. No more sitting at home with the TV!”


Some students found books right away that they checked out; others explored the online learning the library offers. And others really enjoyed the comfy chairs. 🙂

A huge THANK YOU to the staff at the Downtown Public Library. You sure made our day special.

By Lindy Obach, LSS Center for New Americans ESL Instructor
300 E 6th St | Sioux Falls, SD 57103
1-866-242-2447 toll free

Why It Is Not a Good Idea to Use a Torch during a Power Outage in Sioux Falls, South Dakota (and Other Musings)

August 27, 2019

However, it is a perfectly sensible idea if you come from that part of the world where British English is spoken. But English is English is English, right?

Well, I’m sure that’s what our students here at the Center for New Americans thought when they landed in their new home. Many of them studied English in their home countries, be it at school or to get prepared for their move to America. Many of their countries were colonized by the British, so their English was influenced by British English as well.

Today, there are more than 80 countries in the world today where the official torchlanguage is English. Most of these are former territories of the British Empire. Over 2 billion people in the world speak English, but word choice and pronunciation vary greatly.

English is the official language of the United Nations, the European Union and many other international organizations and businesses. These differences come up in the classroom almost on a daily basis.

When we practice how to write a complete sentence and I explain to the students how important it is to put a period at the end they look at me with a bewildered look on their faces. “Oh, you mean a full stop, teacher.” Yes, that’s what I mean.

When we talk about the possibility of a power outage during a thunderstorm, they tell me not to worry. “We have a torch in our house, we will use a torch to give us light.” An American torch would have a disastrous effect; the term flashlight would be much more appropriate here.

In Sioux Falls, our students may live in a second floor apartment and take the elevator up to their floors. A speaker of British English, on the other hand, would describe the same home as a flat on the first floor and use the lift to get there. In America, a woman might wear a bonnet, whereas in British English this same word describes the hood of a car. Americans eat French fries while the British eat chips. Many American children wear braces on their teeth, but British men wear braces to hold up their pants. And the list goes on.


With that being said, Cheers!

Written by:
Silke Hansen | LSS Center for New Americans ESL Instructor and Interpreter

300 East 6th Street, Suite 100 Sioux Falls, SD 57103

605-731-2041 direct, 1-866-242-2447 toll free

Strengthening Individuals, Families and Communities

Images courtesy of and Pinterest



New Americans Take a Field Trip to the Old Courthouse Museum!

August 20, 2019

At the Center for New Americans, we work exceptionally hard to make sure our students feel welcome in our school, but we also work to make sure they feel welcome in the community. A great way to accomplish this is to take a field trip!

Because our little school is downtown, we are within walking distance of a number of fascinating, family-friendly sights to see.

This time, Teachers Heather and Lindy took their upper-level speaking students to the Old Courthouse Museum, a beautiful building in the heart of downtown.

The Old Courthouse Museum checks all our boxes:

  1. it’s free
  2. it’s a short walk away
  3. it’s educational
  4. it’s SUPER COOL!

Enjoy some pictures from our day!


Written By Lindy Obach | LSS Center for New Americans
ESL Instructor
300 E 6th St | Sioux Falls, SD 57103
1-866-242-2447 toll free

Strengthening Individuals, Families and Communities

Learning on the Job

August 7, 2019

The LSS Center for New Americans and area business Grand Prairie Foods have had a special relationship for many years now: many CNA clients and students find productive and gainful employment with this wonderful company. Grand Prairie Foods provides delicious foods to nearly any industry and works with food leaders all over the world.

Learning on the Job

Two students hard at work learning about how to keep a positive attitude at work.

Recently, Grand Prairie Foods Owner and Vice President Val Loudenback and Education Program Coordinator Laura Smith-Hill collaborated on a way to bring more skills to Loudenback’s ELL employees; thus a 3-week class, “Bring Your A Game,” was offered to about 15 employees. The class was developed from curriculum provided by The Center for Work Ethic Development, and I was the lucky teacher who got to do this!


What a great experience! These 15 dedicated employees came an hour early to their work shift for three straight Wednesdays to learn more. We focused on skills to help them have a positive attitude at work, come to work on time and prepared each day, and realize their ambition and future goals. We watched short videos, did small and large-group discussion, and worked on vocabulary and writing skills.

Learning on the Job

Students working on ways to come to work each day on time and prepared.

The students participated wonderfully, and we all learned a lot! I was especially glad to meet 15 more valuable members of our Sioux Falls community.

Does this sound like something you’d like to implement at your business? Give Education Program Coordinator Laura Smith-Hill a call at 605-731-2000 to talk more and check out our Center for New Americans homepage!

If you are a business looking to hire good, hardworking people, post your job openings on our site by visiting our Employment Services page!

By Lindy Obach, Center for New Americans ESL Teacher

Freedom, Peace, & Fast Food

May 28, 2019

In the Center for New Americans’ pre-GED English class, we just finished a 6-week long unit on the American government system.  The students read and wrote about the ways the three branches of government work together to make our country a better place. We also spent time learning about the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act (learn more about this monumental legislation HERE!) and how one woman’s fight for equal pay changed our nation’s laws.

To end our unit, I had my students work on their skills by writing about the US and our government; one prompt I gave them was: “Describe America in 3 words.” Of course, I loved their answers and hope you do, too.


The pre-GED English class busily and happily typing away on the laptops.

  • Another word we call America is as “Land of opportunity” because this nation offers many more opportunities for residents of this nation. But the people most be eager to do he/she wants with full attention and hard working to achieve goals. This is reason why everyone dreams to live in America. – Student from Nepal


  • America is peace because there is no war, not too much of sickness all over the country like Africa. In America, you always find people willing to help you out with any problem that you are going through. Americans are always there for us. The U.S. is freedom because everyone is free to do what so ever things they like to do. We are free to say anything to anybody whenever they wrong us or say anything bad to us and walk freely anywhere. Freedom is the most important thing in our lives. America is experience because you see lot of things that you haven’t seen before. You go to movies, play grounds, shopping mall.– Student from Liberia


  • United States is Good because help to all people, if you have hungry gives you food, you get cold gives you jackets. United States has Nobility because gives to all people the same opportunities. United States is a Big country and each state has many economic wealth, beautiful landscapes and peoples– Student from Mexico


  • Freedom, fast food, and happy. Freedom because all the people have this and can’t go jail for what you are saying. Fast food because wherever you go always you can see a lot of place to fast food. Happy because if you are working hard you can buy all you want. – Student from Nicaragua


  • America is freedom. Why because it has a way of life that enable people to live freely with in the country without fighting each other. America also make people who are from a different culture back ground enable them to live freely within the country. America also allow freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom of assembly, and freedom to petition the government, run for office and also the right to vote with in the country. – Student from Sudan

My students constantly amaze me with their skills, vocabulary, and wonderful personalities.  My 3 words to describe these students are courageous, intelligent, and kind, and I am so glad they are here in America, experiencing all the freedom, peace, and fast food 🙂 they like.

Written by Lindy Obach, ESL Instructor


Our Students, Our Poets

March 5, 2019

“Poetry is language at its most distilled and most powerful.” – Rita Dove

My Oral 4 class recently dedicated nearly a month of their lives to one of my first loves: poetry. As their teacher, I may have had a hand in forcing their dedication, but nevertheless, they welcomed this challenge and tapped into their impressively creative brains.

Over the course of our lesson, the students read, analyzed, wrote, and recited poetry; for many of them, this was the first time they had done this in English. I was so excited for them as they wrote their first poems and proudly (and maybe a bit shyly) stood up in front of their classmates and read them aloud. Of course, the audience is always warm at our school, so the poets were met with cheers and whoops and claps.

The last, and most challenging, poem the students wrote was the “Where I am From” poem. This is from a template developed by Kentucky author and teacher George Ella Lyon. I love this poetry exercise; I think it really helps to turn everyday students into magical poets.


The poems are proudly displayed in the Center for New Americans hallway.

I am sharing a few of the poems my students wrote here, but, if you are ever at the Center for New Americans, I reallyreallyreallyreally really encourage you to walk down our hallway and read all the poems for yourself. They are piercing, beautiful pieces. Our students’ words will stay with you for a long, long time.


Where I am From
I am from animal skin,
from fish and charcoal.
I am from the blue flag, big ocean, and tall camel.
I am from the jasmine flower and mango tree,
white petals and yellow, nice smell.
I am from Somali Danto and very helpful people,
from Ibrahim and Takow.
I’m from eating and storytime,
from pray! and study!
I’m from Islam.
I’m from Mogadishu, Somalia,
rice and cambulo.
From the love and strength of my special mom.
I am from these moments.

I am From
I am from the place of enterprising people.
From the Banda and Coconut candy.
I am from the smell of wet earth and the sound of birds,
from the people of happiness, friendship, and comfort.
I am from of the harvest of corn, the beautiful carnation.
I am from San Juan Festival in Purepero and Christmas.
I am from Celebration and eating together,
from Claudia and Jesus.
I am from the Football Players and Cheerful.
I am from Our Lady of Guadalupe Church,
from the red pozole and pork tamales.
I am from Purepero, Michoacan, Mexico.
I am from those Moments.

Where I am From
I am from a nation of poetry.
I am from a nation with beautiful crops,
maize and sorghum.
I am from a country with the national flower King Protea.
I am from the family tradition of tea and incense.
I am from a tall family, and I look more like my mother than my father.
I am from Cibado and Abdulahi, from Halimo and Cali.
I am from helpful and sharing.
I am from respect! pray! and be good!
I am from Islam,
from rice and fish.
I am from the peacemaker who was finally shot.

Where I am From
I am from lemon tree.
From the blue and white.
I am from the green land,
outside, lightning, best.
I am from the crops so green,
tall and yellow in color.
I am from Sudan and the Nile,
from the Kuku and the Kaka.
I am from the mud and the rainbow,
from the mango.
I am from sky and ground.
I am from love and joy,
clouds, foundation.
From my grandfather and grandmother.


To come read these words yourself, and to take a tour of our amazing school, contact Laura Smith-Hill, our Education Program Coordinator, at 605-731-2000.

By Lindy Obach, ESL Teacher, Center for New Americans

Pre-GED English

January 29, 2019

In December, we rolled out a new class here at the Center for New Americans: Pre-GED English, or as the students call it, Lit 5. This class is for our students with high literacy skills and big educational and career goals. Some of my students, in particular, have plans to go to nursing school, open up a restaurant, or study theater at a liberal arts university. Pre-GED English will help these motivated students achieve their impressive goals.


The morning Lit 5 class. I told them to look extra smart for this picture.

This class is offered in the morning, afternoon, and evening, and so far, the students have read scholarly, academic articles on the topic of health and obesity, learned and used new vocabulary, and studied grammar and mechanics more intensively. I can tell you that they can spot a conjunctive adverb from a hundred yards, no problem. 🙂 Throughout this class, students will read and write about more important and timely topics such as the environment, checks and balances, civil rights movements, poverty, immigration, and higher ed.


Teacher Mary’s evening Lit 5 class, still smiling after a full day’s work.

In Pre-GED English, the students are learning the elements of purposeful writing and analytical reading. Organization, prediction, credible research, and thesis statements are just some of the specifics we are focusing on this class. Once a student leaves our classroom, we want them primed and ready for their next educational step, and Pre-GED English is a way to help them succeed.

By Lindy Obach, ESL Teacher, Center for New Americans

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