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ESL Students Practice Reading Skills as part of Service Learning Project

Submitted by on January 3, 2017 – 7:42 pm

Darleny Espinal of Lawrence, a student enrolled in Northern Essex Community College’s English as a Second Language program, reads to children attending the Merrimack Valley YMCA child care program as part of a service learning project.

On a recent Tuesday morning, students from a Northern Essex Community College English as a Second Language (ESL) class could be found reading books to the youngsters in the child care program at the Merrimack Valley YMCA in Lawrence.

The Northern Essex students are enrolled in the high intermediate level of Academic ESL. Under the direction of ESL curriculum coordinator, Amy Cameron, the eight women were participating in a service learning project that allowed them to practice and share their English reading and speaking skills. This was their second visit to the Merrimack Valley YMCA child care program in Lawrence.

“This was a wonderful experience. The students were nervous at first to read aloud in English, but they gained confidence when they saw how enthusiastic the children were about our visit,” said Cameron. “They all successfully read the books they had chosen and led related art projects, and the kids had a blast.  Everyone agreed that they would like to be involved in a project like this again, and that it deeply enriched learning for both groups.”

In addition, the women, who hail from different areas of the world – six are from the Dominican Republic, one from Puerto Rico, and one from the Philippines, toured the Lawrence Public Library and received assistance of selecting appropriate children’s books with time to practice  reading aloud.

These ESL students also viewed a presentation by Gail Feigenbaum, Early Childhood Education program coordinator on how to effectively read to young children and create related activities.

The service learning project culminated with information about volunteer opportunities at the YMCA.

Service Learning combines classroom learning with real world application of their learning. Students learn through experience and an opportunity to make a difference in their community. NECC offers many service opportunities for students to make and strengthen connections on campus and within their communities. Service learning courses are offered in Academic ESL and other areas each semester. The most current course offerings are listed here.

Additional information on service learning at NECC can be found at the service learning website.

Anyone interested in Academic ESL at NECC can contact Cameron at or visit the website.

Those who are interested in service learning can contact Janel D’Agata-Lynch, civic engagement and service learning coordinator at