Closer Connections Conference to be held in Sioux Falls November 8 & 9

October 18, 2017

PATHS jpg

This coming month Lutheran Services of South Dakota and Dakota TESL will be hosting the 2017 Closer Connections Conference, Pioneering New PATHS:  Promoting Acquisition to Heighten Success.

The Closer Connections Conference includes:

  • Best practices for teaching English Language Learners at all ages and levels of proficiency
  • Cultural panels
  • Breakout sessions on refugee resettlement and immigration
  • Networking opportunities

I was able to talk to Dakota TESL President-elect, Diana Streleck, who said, “The Closer Connection Conference provides teachers and community members a venue in which to discuss and learn about the educational needs and cultural backgrounds of the English Language Learner in our communities.”

Thanks in part to the South Dakota Humanities Council, the one of the keynote speakers of the conference will be, Dr. Amer Ahmed, a prominent national speaker and intercultural diversity consultant, who will deliver a keynote address and discussion session, “Addressing Islamophobia: Dispelling Myths to Break Down Barriers.”

Ahmed

Amer F. Ahmed, Ed. D., is an individual with an eclectic personal and professional background. As an intercultural diversity consultant, college administrator, facilitator, poet and Hip Hop activist, he channels his diverse experiences towards effectively changing how we interact with the world around us.  Born in Springfield, Ohio, to Indian Muslim immigrants, Amer has dedicated his life to engaging and facilitating diversity across human difference. Powerful study abroad experiences in South Africa and Nepal have been enhanced by his deep interest in anthropology and Black Studies. His Indian-Muslim-American upbringing, together with his education and international experiences form the basis of his message to his audiences—respect and dignity for all people.

The second keynote speaker will be, Dr. John Schmidt, an educator, trainer, program developer and administrator with extensive international experience will present a keynote address and break-out session reflecting on “At Home in the World: Building Language Skills to House ESL Acquisition.”

john_schmidt

The great-grandson of Norwegian immigrants to Wisconsin, John was raised in the Upper Midwest. In sixth grade he was introduced to a second language, Spanish, by his teacher from Cuba. This encounter was the beginning of his world travels which led him to studying and working in Spain as well as training teachers and developing programs for a variety of educational entities on all five continents.  He currently teaches ESL for the Texas Intensive English Program (TIEP) in Austin, Texas. In addition, he has volunteered his time and expertise in various capacities with TESOL International and Toastmasters International. He has co-authored several ESL textbooks addressing teaching, grammar and English for Specific Purposes.

The Closer Connections Conference gives the local community the opportunity to learn about refugees and immigrants from different countries, listen to international speakers, and engage in interactive sessions to understand diversity in our community.

If you would like to register for the conference, please visit the Dakota TESL website:  http://dakotatesl.com/ for more information.

Posted by Heather Glidewell, ESL Instructor and Dakota TESL Secretary

 


I believe…

September 20, 2017

northshore

I believe that LSS Center for New Americans is an integral part of the Sioux Falls community, strengthening families, providing much needed services, reaching above and beyond to help people. I believe hard work and determination goes a long way in changing lives, the community, and the world. I believe LSS gives people a chance when they had none. There is a certain satisfaction knowing that you have helped make your community a better place to be, have helped people live and thrive when they didn’t have that chance before.
I believe that people come here to be free, to live and love, to build a new life, a better life, and LSS helps them assimilate, helps them overcome language and cultural barriers, prepares them to find gainful employment and housing. LSS helps reunite families and keep families together.
I believe that we are privileged to provide many people with the chance to learn new things. For example, on Monday nights, we offer a technology class at the Center for New Americans. It is so exciting to help students succeed when they have never used a computer before. It is also exhilarating to teach a student who cannot read and write their own language how to read and write in English. These are the precious, empowering moments for our students that help them succeed in our community.
Some time ago, I had a student that told me, “I was afraid when I came to America, but maybe American culture is not bad, it is just different.” This comment has impacted my own thoughts and beliefs. My students’ cultures are not bad. They are just different. There is beauty to be found in each and every one of them.
I believe LSS Center for New Americans changes lives. Not only the lives of the refugees and immigrants they help, but the lives of all the employees and volunteers that work for the changes. Working at the Center for New Americans is challenging work but very rewarding. I believe that the final goals are definitely worth the effort!

Written by Heather Glidewell, LSS ESL Instructor

 

 


September? A holiday month? Really?

September 14, 2017

globe and flags

How many holidays are there in September? Well, that’s pretty easy. One of course – Labor Day. And that’s correct, but it also doesn’t end there. Just about every month has one or two major holidays and then many less known celebratory days, often too numerous to mention. And September is no exception. Let’s take a look.

September is the start of National Hispanic Heritage Month, going from September 15 to October 15. Hispanic Heritage Month dates back to 1968 and highlights the independence of several Latin American countries – Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico, Chile and Belize – as well as the contributions Spanish speaking individuals have made to the fabric of the United States.

Then there is Labor Day, also known as the unofficial end of summer. It became a federal holiday in 1984, honoring the American workers who – through strength, sweat and perseverance – have shaped this country into what it is today.

And then there is the plethora of other celebrations. A little something for everyone. The internet tells me that there are more than 650 holidays worldwide in September. Several religious holidays are spread throughout the month: the Muslim Eid-al-Adha, remembering that Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son Ishmail to God, the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, a day of repentance. The government is also well represented, with Citizenship and Constitution Days, Goldstar Mother’s Day and the Air Force’s birthday.

Acorn squash, cheese lovers pizza, salami, TV dinners and Chocolate Milk Shakes are among the many foods highlighted during the month of September. All these meals require a National Clean Up Day. Don’t forget your pets, video games and clean beds.

My personal favorite is definitely National Coffee Day, observed on September 29. There might be some free cups of coffee to be found on that day. I will certainly give it a try.

National-Coffee-Day

Written by Silke Hansen, LSS English Instructor


On the Road to Citizenship!

August 1, 2017

On Friday and Saturday mornings, something special takes place at the Center for New Americans. As soon as the doors open, about 100 adult students show up, eager, happy, and ready to work.  There are always lots of smiles and laughter, but the students come for some very serious work.

All of these students are refugees and immigrants who have lived in the United States for the past year or more, and now they want the opportunity to become citizens of this country where they have felt welcomed and secure, raised their families, paid taxes, and grown to love. These super dedicated students take time out of their lives, their work schedules, their families, to come and learn about U.S. history, U.S. civics, and U.S. geography.  Students learn how to read and write English and build confidence in their listening and speaking skills. They faithfully come to Citizenship class, because they all share the hope and dream of becoming a citizen themselves…some day!

Sitting alongside these students are classroom volunteers. Just like the students they help, these volunteers set aside time out of their busy weekly schedules to make a difference. Being a volunteer is an invaluable experience.  Here are a few of the benefits of being a volunteer:

  • Enjoy helping others learn
  • Give back to the community
  • Become aware of needs in the community
  • Share valuable skills and knowledge
  • Learn about new cultures
  • Help people understand American culture, history, and the English language
  • Build bridges across cultures
  • Make new friends
  • Discover and build new skills and ideas
  • Have an overall positive experience

What does it take to become a U.S. Citizen?

The U.S. naturalization process is an expensive and difficult process. Candidates for naturalization need to undergo and pass an intensive interview in English.

Candidates must then undergo an oral examination on U.S. history and government where they must listen to and correctly answer six out of ten questions that are randomly chosen from 100 possible civics, history, and geography questions. Would you pass? The USCIS has an online practice test: https://my.uscis.gov/prep/test/civics

Finally candidates are required to demonstrate their English reading and writing ability. Candidates must pass all three exams before being recommended for citizenship (naturalization).

Want to be a citizenship classroom volunteer?

Contact Kristyne.Walth@lsssd.org.

Need free citizenship classes?

You can receive free citizenship classes if you bring your green card. Call 731-2000 to schedule an enrollment appointment for the next class session.

Want help filling out the “citizenship application” or N-400?

Call 731-2000 to schedule an appointment with an immigration attorney for reduced or free rates.

Want to know more about the process of becoming a citizen?

Visit the USCIS website https://www.uscis.gov/ for details.

Written by Heather Glidewell

 


A Summer of New Experiences

August 1, 2017

Imagine for a moment some of the tasks on your to-do list this week. Chances are a lot of things on the list are “just get it done” tasks, the kind of thing you have to remember to do, but you don’t think about very much –picking up prescriptions, grabbing groceries for the week, scheduling a dental appointment for your child.

Now imagine you’ve been dropped off in a totally new country – a place where people don’t speak your language, you don’t get food at the same kind of store, and you have no idea who to call or even if you can call to make that dentist appointment. Suddenly, that “just get it done” to-do list has become full of looming, seemingly impossible tasks. Common activities are suddenly hopelessly confusing. This is the reality for many refugee families when they first arrive in the United States.

This summer I’ve had the pleasure to work with many of Sioux Falls’ refugee families through an internship at the LSS Center for New Americans. When refugees arrive in Sioux Falls, they are assigned a set of LSS case managers. These case managers have varying specialties, such as locating housing, navigating the medical system, finding employment, and enrolling children in public school.   However, I think of myself as the luckiest person working here, because, as the intern, I get to help out in all of these specialties.

Leigha Vilen

CNA Intern Leigha Vilen

As someone who has never spent much time outside the United States (I thought the move to college was a big transition!), I have been awed and inspired by the resilience of the refugee families we work with as they negotiate living within an unfamiliar culture. The role of the caseworker is primarily as a facilitator, helping to navigate the challenges created by this unfamiliarity. Our clients take this little bit of help and use it to build amazing futures: achieving new educational goals, advancing in their careers, and creating the best possible futures for their children and grandchildren.

Leigha working at her desk

Leigha working at her desk.

I owe LSS and the families I was lucky enough to work with a huge thank you for an amazing summer. I came in hoping to learn a little bit about social work and refugee resettlement, but I’m walking away with a vision of what the American Dream can look like at its best.

 

Leigha Vilen

Summer 2017 Intern, LSS Center for New Americans


A Refugee Camp in Sioux Falls?

July 18, 2017

Yes!  On June 20th, visitors to the Center for New Americans got to experience an interactive refugee camp and learn more about the journey of a refugee around the world.  The event was organized to celebrate World Refugee Day; the international observance dedicated raising awareness of the refugee situation around the world.

On this warm Tuesday lunch hour, 250 people from the Sioux Falls community walked in the footsteps of refugees – from fleeing their home country to being resettled in America.  Interactive stations were available along the way to show the realities of the refugee resettlement process.  Visitors began at the border crossing, where they were questioned as to why they fled their home country. As they gained their refugee stamp book, they learned that by the end of 2016, there were 22.5 million refugees in the world and yet less than 1% of them ever find a permanent home.

From there, the new “refugees” then made their way to a Distribution Center to get supplies for their time in a refugee camp.  Real-life former refugees told stories of their time in the camps and what conditions were truly like before the “refugees” learned about the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program.  An Immigration attorney was available to answer questions as to how the immigration process happens, what kind of security clearances are required and who is approved to come to the United States.

Finally, the “refugees” had to learn about the culture of America, before they could be approved to fly overseas.  When they arrived to America, they were welcomed into LSS to see how refugees are integrated into the community and become self-sufficient.  Tours of the new LSS Campus on Eastbank, which houses the Center for New Americans, were available along with refreshments for the weary travelers.

This interactive event was co hosted by:  LSSSD, Refugee Congress, Caminando Juntos, the Multi Cultural Center, and Pax Christi.  Organizers of the event would like to extend their thanks to Mogadishu Grocery store for providing the supplies for the Distribution Center and Swamp Daddy’s Cajun Kitchen for being on site to offer food to visitors.  We would also like to say thank you to the volunteers who helped set up and participate in the event.  Finally, we would also like to say a big thank you to everyone came to the event!

Check out Keloland and KSFY for videos of the event.

 

written by Kristyne Duffy, Volunteer Coordinator, Center for New Americans


LSS Teacher Receives National Recognition

March 28, 2017

Our own teacher, Silke Hansen, formerly recognized as teacher of the year through the South Dakota Association for Lifelong Learning (SDALL), recently received national recognition as an outstanding instructor. Please see the Coalition on Adult Basic Education (COABE) press release below for full details about this prestigious award.


Silke Hansen, LSS ESL Instructor

COABE Outstanding Teacher of the Year Award Runner-Up: Silke Hansen

Lutheran Social Services—Center for New Americans

Sioux Falls, South Dakota

The Coalition on Adult Basic Education (COABE) is 15,000 members strong and growing, and provides a variety of services including annually providing competitive national-level awards, incentive grants, and scholarship opportunities through special funding provided by the Dollar General Literacy Foundation.

Our mission is to inspire educators so adults succeed and communities thrive. COABE exists to provide leadership, communication, professional development, and advocacy for adult education and literacy practitioners in order to advance quality services for all adult learners. Fifteen thousand members strong, one way that we engage in these activities is by spotlighting excellence in the field. Silke Hansen was nominated for COABE’s Outstanding Teacher of the Year Award and was selected as a runner-up.

Silke Hansen is an excellent, dedicated, and seasoned veteran teacher, having taught in adult basic education for over 11 years. Her teaching duties reach well beyond the classroom. Whenever there is a function of any kind, whether it is the annual student-teacher picnic, yearly LSS fundraiser, The Closer Connections Conference, conference presentations, or welcoming new refugees to LSS, Silke is sure to volunteer and take on considerable responsibilities. Silke’s key role among the staff might be guessed by the position of her work cubicle in the teachers’ room—it is the first cubicle seen upon entering the room, an assignment that the coordinator, Laura, admits was a conscious placement. This crucial location puts Silke where she can assist teachers and students alike who are looking for some help or advice. Silke knows where everything is stored, students’ names (past and present) and what needs to be done in almost any situation practically without fail! She has built so many strong relationships with her students, not only in their classroom endeavors, but also in the greater Sioux Falls area. She has served on the board of directors of two refugee organizations in Sioux Falls: The Khor Wakow School Project headed by South Sudan refugee and past “Lost Boy” David Jal, and the Refugee and Immigrant Women’s Association, an organization that seeks to empower refugee and immigrant women in the community and provide a networking base for its members. Together, these activities and Silke’s level of commitment reflect the kind of dedication to students that her coworkers admire and her students gratefully love. They know that Silke really cares for them as people and friends, stands with them, and will support them. During all her years at LSS, it’s clear that Silke has done whatever she could, both inside and outside the classroom to help her students find meaningful successes in their adopted country. The South Dakota state organization has seen her commitment to excellence and chose her to represent their state for the COABE Teacher of the Year Award.

 

To learn more about COABE’s prestigious award program, go to http://www.coabe.org or contact awards@coabe.org.

 

Posted by Heather Glidewell, ESL Instructor


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