One of the most important and valuable tools any immigrant in America can obtain these days is the knowledge of speaking English. Instructors Mauren Mora and Patrick Stout are helping immigrants in the Woodward and surrounding areas acquire these tools.

Mora and Stout just graduated 14 students at the Woodward Public Library from their English-speaking course. Each student received a certificate of completion Monday evening.

But, not only are they helping them to learn English as a second language, they also are giving immigrants another valuable tool by providing free classes in computer orientation and advanced computers at the High Plains Technology Center in Woodward.

“The students are here because they want to learn English and learn more about community services that are offered in our area,” said Mora, who is originally from Venezuela and moved to Woodward several years ago with her husband who works for a local oilfield company. “They learn English as a second language and also about other community services ... we also promote reading and encourage them to utilize the library services and bring their children to the library as well.”

Stout, who speaks only English, helps the students with pronunciation and testing.

“The students are learning a lot,” said Stout, who has also started holding the classes in Mooreland at the Methodist Church. “The testing has a lot of pictures and questions about those pictures. Some of the beginners have a little trouble, but the ones who have been here a while can tell you exactly what’s going on in the pictures.”

Mora said the classes are very beneficial to the students. They also provide them with free books, courtesy of the Oklahoma Department of Education, and all types of materials to help them as well.

“When they can’t communicate, they have a hard time in the community and learning about all of our wonderful services we provide in our community,” said Mora.

She said they start out with the basics - the ABCs, then learn a new phrase in English every week.

“Everyone here is doing a great job,” she said. “At the beginning, they can’t communicate very well, but we encourage everyone to take the time and learn the language ... we welcome everybody and we don’t ask any questions. We want them to feel comfortable and just learn, learn, learn.”

Antonia Handrahan of Shattuck has been in the state’s for the past nine years. She, at one time, worked as a reporter for a newspaper in Mexico. She has been attending the English classes for the past two years and now speaks very good English.

“I wanted to take the classes to have a better life by being able to speak English,” said Handrahan. “I would encourage other Spanish-speaking people to come to the classes as well - if you live here, you need to learn to speak English.”

The classes have not only been attracting Mexican immigrants, but other Spanish-speaking immigrants from Chili, Honduras and Columbia as well.

Parents Amelia Valenzuela and Oscar Castro, originally from Chili, now live in Laverne with their two children - Anakaren, 15 and Jose, 17. They have been taking the classes for a while now and travel to Woodward twice a week to take the classes at the library and the CareerTech. They have also been working with a tutor, Donna Davis, as well.

“We would like to encourage other students to take these classes,” said Valenzuela. “English is very important and we have learned a lot. We have two children and they are learning with us as well. This has benefitted our entire family.”

Mora said they always offer one on one sessions with the students as well, to help them learn even more.

The classes in Woodward will be held on Mondays at the CareerTech in Room 200 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. The Mooreland classes are held on Thursday nights at 6 p.m. at the Methodist Church. For more information about the classes, interested persons may contact Mora at 256-2770 or Stout at 994-5307. They also said that they will be taking a month off for a break in July, but classes would begin again in August.

The classes are totally free of charge, which includes books, pencils and other materials and also the classes at the CareerTech are offered for free to the students as well. An interrupter helps the students during their computer classes at the CareerTech, said Mora.

“Not only are they learning English as a second language, but they also have the opportunity to take the classes at the vo-tech - computer orientation and advanced computers,” she said. “It’s so important to know about computers now in any job that they will have in the future.”

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