A new family literacy class at Civic Nebraska’s Lincoln High after-school Community Learning Center is giving the school’s English-language learners and their families a way to practice while bonding with their families.
Haroon Al Hayder, Civic Nebraska’s school community coordinator at the Lincoln High CLC, said the three-days-a-week class began in September, joining at least 10 other Lincoln Public Schools sites to provide a family-centered approach to education that brings children and families together to learn.
It’s one way the Lincoln High CLC works with LPS to build successful youth, thriving families, and strong neighborhoods. Civic Nebraska is the lead agency at the LHS CLC.
Matt Kohrell is the program’s instructor. He said it’s empowering to watch parents and children grow – both as students and as new Americans.
“Every person is different,” Kohrell said. “There are a lot of different aspects (about the class) for prospering in America. They can go on and become U.S. citizens or find a good job.”
The course is founded on respect for relationships. Everyone who comes through the door to learn English is treated with equal hospitality and friendliness, he said.
“I can tell my students start to feel comfortable with me when they ask questions that apply to their lives,” Kohrell said. “I like it when they start to joke with me because I can tell that they are starting to warm up (to the experience).”
As those bonds strengthen, the class itself feels more like a family – a family that would do anything for one another.
“One of our Ukrainian refugees [left her country during] the Russia-Ukraine war,” Kohrell said. “[She fled] to America, but couldn’t bring her violin.” So Kohrell found someone from a local church to donate a violin.
“When we gave it to her, her whole face lit up,” Al Hayder said.
In its first year, the free program has grown from just a few students and family members to more than a dozen, thanks to close interest from the school’s refugee and immigrant communities.
But Al Hayder said that the program isn’t about numbers.
“We focus on the quality of the program over the number of students we teach,” he said. “If we empower one student or even one parent, that will be a success.”