English Language Program Expands to Coastside
School Scholars helps with bus passes, books
Jeronimo’s weekday morning routine begins at 5:30 a.m. most days.
walking to the bus stop at the corner of Main and Miramontes streets, he boards
the 6:15 a.m. SamTrans bus. He transfers buses twice, before arriving at his
destination by 7:35 a.m. He travels to Cañada College in Redwood City to take
English classes four days a week. Later in the day, after four or five
hours of homework, he repeats the trip in reverse, arriving home around 8 p.m,
on some nights, he says.
addition to his classes, Jeronimo, 31, works at two Half Moon Bay restaurants —
busing dishes and running food Thursday through Saturday nights, and cooking
Friday through Sunday mornings.
schedule may be tough, but it’s no deterrent for him. Jeronimo says he was
motivated to learn English by his younger brother, who also took English
classes at Cañada.
speaks English very well, and he has a better job and makes more money than I
do,” said Jeronimo, who was born in Oaxaca, Mexico, and moved to Half Moon Bay
when he was 15. “He learned English, and I want to learn now.”
is one of around 180 adult students, mostly low-income immigrants, who are
working to improve their English proficiency with support from the nonprofit
Sequoia Adult School Scholars. While Jeronimo provides the grit and
determination to make the trek over the hill to continue his English studies,
SASS provides practical support like a Clipper card to pay his bus fares, funds
to cover school books, and a laptop for studying.
in 2009 by Elizabeth Weal, a former English-as-a-second-language teacher at
Sequoia Adult School, the program started as a way for her students to attend
English classes at Cañada College. Now, the program has expanded to support
students from Half Moon Bay and Pescadero, Weal said.
once there were only four students, there are now nearly 200, most in their 20s
and 30s like Jeronimo. Currently, five of them are from Half Moon Bay, said
saw this need, but I didn’t think it would be quite so complicated,” Weal said
with a laugh.
program supports students who have completed ESL classes at their local adult
schools and want to continue their education at the college level. “Canada
classes are more advanced, and students can take courses to transfer to a university
or lead to a profession,” Weal said.
entirely by donations and support from private foundations and nonprofits, the
program “allows (adult students) to move out of jobs that don’t give them a lot
of potential for economic advancement,” she said.
potential in students like Jeronimo is what Weal aims to identify and support.
She met him at an event earlier this fall to distribute laptops to SASS’s
managed to figure out his schedule to go to school Monday through Thursday and
work Friday, Saturday and Sunday,” she said. “I thought his dedication was
his three hours on the bus each day, Jeronimo reads and watches videos of
English lessons. If he continues taking classes at his current rate, he’ll
finish school in 2018. And then? “My ideal job is to be an electrician,” he