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Project English gives boost in learning language

Helmut Schmidt/Forum Communications Meneliva Nahimana, originally from Burundi, demonstrates how she and other Project English students use Rosetta Stone computer software to learn English.

FARGO, ND -- Project English is now being projected through much of Fargo-Moorhead.

The English-language learning program, sponsored by the five metro Rotary clubs, has expanded from its original home at Carl Ben Eielson Middle School, 1601 13th Ave. S., Fargo, to eight sites in Fargo and Moorhead.

"Gaining a working knowledge of English will open many doors," said Tim Dirks, director of the Fargo Public Library.

Dirks spoke Wednesday at a news conference describing the program designed to help refugees and other new Americans quickly improve their English.

Project English uses Rosetta Stone computer software, and pairs mentors up with the adult students, said Heather Ranck, program organizer and director.

More than 2,500 refugees have settled in the metro in the last decade, she said. While their children learn English quickly at school, adults often struggle to learn the language.

That makes it tougher for adults to become self-sufficient and upsets family dynamics, Ranck said.

"Go Rotary and go Rosetta Stone!" said Vonnie Sanders, director of the Fargo School District's English Language Learners program. "We couldn't do it alone. We need the help of the community."

The Project English sites are within walking distance of where many new Americans live, Ranck said.

Meneliva Nahimana and Tulasha Siwakoti are Project English participants who work at the Holiday Inn.

Nahimana, originally from Burundi, demonstrated the software.

"I like English," she said. "Sometimes, when I finish work, I go a little bit on (the) computer."

Siwakoti, from Bhutan, was all smiles about being able to communicate.

"It's very helpful for us to learn English and computers," Siwakoti said. "I'm very happy with this program. ... I say, thank you so much."

Mike Prekel, general manager of the Holiday Inn, said the program has been a boost for his staff.

"The best part has just been opening them up as individuals," Prekel said, because they're able to communicate more easily with fellow staff and customers.

"We're actually looking at adding another computer," Prekel said.

Expansion of the program began in March with the Holiday Inn site.

Project English's 143 volunteers have provided more than 1,000 hours of aid to 172 people at the eight sites, Ranck said.

The Rotary clubs provided about $12,900 for the program, Ranck said.

Forum Communications Co. owns the Fargo Forum and the Daily Globe.