Hundreds of West Valley residents are celebrating the American dream. More than 600 people learned English through a city initiative and received awards for their success.
Immigrants from 14 countries sat in front of West Valley city leaders at the Utah Cultural Celebration Center last night feeling victorious. Some have lived here 20 years and just recently learned English.
“It’s very difficult because I had to go to work and I have kids. I get up every day at three o’clock in the morning to go to my work,” said Majorie Acevedo, who immigrated from El Salvador two decades ago.
Nearly half of West Valley’s residents are ethnic minorities. Almost a third speak a language other than English at home. In January 2010, the city launched its English Initiative Program, creating a website that leads residents to affordable English as a Second Language (ESL) classes. The goal is to have every West Valley resident fluent in English.
“It’s not fair for an immigrant from Vietnam to feel like they have to learn English and Spanish to succeed in our community. It’s not fair for an immigrant from Tonga to have to learn Vietnamese and English. English is the language that binds us together,” said West Valley Mayor Mike Winder.
Since the program’s inception two years ago, Winder says nearly 2,000 residents have received awards for learning English. One of last night’s recipients, Gilberthe Mwendanga, struggled to learn English ever since immigrating from the Congo four years ago. She’s grateful for the city’s initiative.
“Here in America you can’t have a job if you don’t know English and you can’t do nothing if you don’t know English so we need to learn, we need to know,” said Mwendanga
“I feel so happy because I came here and I needed to learn,” said Acevedo.
“Is this part of the American dream for you?” asked reporter Gene Kennedy.
“Yes, this is my dream.”
If you’re a West Valley resident and you’d like to learn English, click on englishwvc.org The website will tell you where ESL classes are and some are only $25.