During the growing and harvesting season, migrant workers can take part in HCC's English as a Second Language program. Two nights a week, when the workers finish a hot day in the fields in the Bethel community, they meet in a greenhouse on Carroll Burress' farm to learn how to communicate in what is often a new world to them. These migrant workers are usually in Haywood County for a limited time, following the crops to another job.
But while they are here, Kay Brogdon, Lori Stephens, and Cammie Mears make the most of what time they have. The trio works together to teach for the Cowboy's Field Migrant Worker Program. This 8 week course is an effort to teach English to migrant workers and permanent non-English speaking residents throughout the year free of charge through Haywood Community College.
The program was started in the summer of 2003 to reach hard-working laborers who might not have the time or energy to attend a regular English class. Approximately 80 students have been involved in the program since its inception. The goal is to teach "survival" English, including how to fill out forms; handling money; names for common items and tools of the trade; and useful phrases. The course is tailored to the personal interests and needs of the students.
The two-hour classes are conducted on Tuesday and Thursday evenings in an informal setting with lots of talk over a meal. With no electricity as dark approaches, lanterns are brought out to continue the studies.
In addition to English instruction, the students have been provided with evening meals by St. Margaret's Catholic Church in Maggie Valley and the women of the Catholic Circle of the St. John's the Evangelist Catholic Community.
Mears, who acts as an interpreter, asks one of the workers how he ended up in the county. Pedro Maya explains that he came to make money to send back to his family. "I have lots of brothers and I send them money so they can stay in school," he explains. When asked why he joined the ESL class he explained. "It is hard not to be able to communicate. I want to be able to understand the language better."
Instructor for the class, Kay Brogdon, first came to Haywood County with the United Methodist Disaster Relief to help clean up after the floods of 2004. She spent a year helping to rebuild eight houses. She loved the area and stayed to make a difference in other ways.
Brogdon spends her days as a social worker with the Buncombe County Department of Social Services. In the evenings, she puts to use the Spanish she learned while living in Texas. "I am here to help any way I can. I want these workers to learn as much English as they possible so they can feel comfortable communicating. This has been a blessing in my life."
Brogdon doesn't realize she is the one that is a blessing to many of these workers. She uses maps and other methods to teach them of the area and what types of crops they can expect to see.
When these students finish the class, they are often able to understand as well as communicate better with everyone around them.
For more information on the Cowboy's Field Migrant Worker Program at HCC, please call 627-4643.
Instructor Kay Brogdon uses a map to explain to students what crops are grown in the nearby states. Brogdon teaches in the Cowboy's Field Migrant Worker Program. This 8 week course is an effort to teach English to migrant workers and permanent non-English speaking residents throughout the year free of charge through Haywood Community College.