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Dedman College student launches ESL class for custodial workers

Dallas Morning News

Originally posted: December 7, 2014

Ran Subba spends his days cleaning the facilities at Southern Methodist University. But on Friday nights, he can be found in the classroom.


He’s one of 13 campus custodians taking English lessons through a program launched by SMU student Jaime Sisson, a senior studying Spanish and education. Sisson said she started the course expecting most of her students were Spanish speakers. But, like Subba, many speak Nepalese.

“We cannot do anything without education,” Subba said. “I wanted to study ESL, but I didn’t know a place to go.”

Sisson’s class fills that need.

Subba moved to Dallas four years ago after spending 18 years as a refugee in Nepal. He’s originally from Bhutan. The 52-year-old Aramark employee first started practicing English with a friend on the job because he couldn’t understand his supervisor, Subba said.

“If I can understand more English, and if I can read more English, I can do anything,” he said.

Subba said he hopes learning English can help him land a job as a supervisor or even a translator. Sisson, 23, says she wants to help custodial workers like Subba achieve their goals.

“I just saw a need, and I wanted to help my community,” Sisson said. “They basically want to improve their life and their job.”

Sisson teaches the class through the Engaged Learning and Caswell Leadership programs, two SMU programs that fund independent student projects. She said she had to alter her initial teaching plans after she realized that many of her students weren’t Spanish speakers. READ MORE

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