Students from around the globe gather at Broadview Heights Baptist Church for free English classes
Every Tuesday morning, a group of students hailing from countries as far away as Panama, Russia, France, Korea, Pakistan and Palestine enter the doors of Broadview Heights Baptist Church. In the church’s classrooms, volunteers can be found quizzing the students on vocabulary words and encouraging them to converse in English.
Students complete a lesson in their workbooks. Photo by J. Mitchell
The church, located at 9850 Broadview Rd., has been offering free English as a Second Language classes to the community since March 2019. The only cost to students is a $10 book fee.
Classes are divided into three levels, depending on skill (students are assessed when they enter the program), and run Tuesdays from 9:30-11:30 a.m., September through May.
The program came to fruition when a missionary in Ireland visited Broadview Heights on furlough and spoke at a BHBC service about their work, including an ESL ministry they had started at their church, said ESL program director Cara Nolan.
“I went to the service, and I really felt that the Lord was speaking to me, saying, ‘You really need to be involved in a ministry like this,’” Nolan said.
After the service, she found her pastor, the Rev. Joel Royalty, and told him, “I’ve never felt anything like this.”
Royalty told her he had just been thinking that he didn’t have time to run the ministry himself, and he had asked God to send someone to help him.
Nolan took a weekend course about running an ESL ministry and obtained a curriculum for the classes. In March 2019, about five students showed up. By September, that number had grown to 21.
“They’re not all there the same day,” Nolan said. “Adults have other obligations. But there’s a pretty good core group that comes regularly.”
The students speak about 10 different languages, she said, including Russian, French, Arabic, Korean, Spanish, Portuguese and Urdu.
Along with free courses, the church also offers free childcare for children up to age 5 (older children would be in school, Nolan said).
A staff of 11 volunteers teaches the classes. Each of the three classrooms has a teacher and at least one assistant.
“One of our teachers is a retired certified teacher herself,” Nolan said. Royalty teaches another class, and several homeschooled teens volunteer, as well.
Students come from Broadview Heights, as well as the west side of Cleveland and Bedford, Nolan said. The youngest is 24, while the oldest, a married couple, are about 70.
“Many of them have lived here for, I would say, six to 10 years on average,” Nolan said. “But often, they form a community with their family or workers where they are speaking their native language. And especially with those that speak Spanish, they go to markets where that language is spoken. So they don’t have to practice or work on their language that much.”