Northland News

ESL program turns to 'crowdfunding' for aid

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An online fundraising campaign to keep afloat a program that teaches English to Somali children has been extended.

Supporters of English as a Second Language Afterschool Communities are hoping to raise $3,800 through "crowdfunding" at www.Indiegogo.com before Wednesday, Aug. 7.

The instruction, for children in grades two through five, is held at the Providence Glen apartment community in northeast Columbus, but includes students from Somali families who have settled in the Northland area, according to Brianne Manczak, coordinator of the Columbus State Community College program.

"We've been in this community for nine years now, serving children of Somali immigrant and refugee population," Manczak explained.

The ESL classes were launched with a grant from the Ohio Department of Education, she said. The program received a second grant, but for less money.

The original deadline for raising money to cover the shortfall had been July 12.

"The campaign to save the literacy program has combined traditional and modern approaches to raising funds," according to a press release from supporter Holly Jensen. "In June, Praxia Partners, a sustainable development firm, donated half of the budget shortfall in order to keep the doors open.

"Then, a coalition of organizations ranging from local businesses to faith-based nonprofits, such as Dayspring Community Development Corp., came together to raise the other half. Over $1,300 was donated during the initial round of crowdfunding."

According to Jensen, fundraising drives that were once limited in scope now have a much wider audience, thanks to the Internet.

"Social media spreads the word, and crowdfunding allows individuals across the globe to support causes they believe in with just a click," she said in the release.

The program is vitally important to helping these young Somali children keep up in school, according to Manczak.

"English is not spoken in the home, so when these kids go home, they are not reading books with their parents, they are not getting help with their homework," Manczak said. "We try to bridge that gap."

Over the course of a summer in a home where English is rarely, if ever, spoken, a Somali student can fall back an entire grade, she said.

"For some of them, we're building just basic skills," Manczak added. "These are kids who are very eager to be in our program."

Budget and space limitations mean the program can only accept 30 to 35 students, and there is always a waiting list, she said.

ESL Afterschool Communities is an outreach initiative of Columbus State Community College's Center for Workforce Development.

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