Community Resources for ELLs

Community Resources for ELLs

by Zachary Smith

Part of being an ELL teacher for a non-credit English course at a community college is providing resources for the migrant population that is being served. It is important for the members of the migrant community to feel well-connected to the local community, and this goes beyond simple necessities such as work, a safe living environment, transportation, etc. It branches out to community resources as well.

Each week in my ELL classes, I attempt to share a different resource that is available. Here are some of the resources that I have informed my students about.

Legal Services
Each county has a legal aid office. I reached out to my local legal aid office and found a staff attorney who had a Spanish translator available. We had an open question law seminar for students. I also allowed students to bring friends and family into this session.

Tax Preparation Services
Taxes are confusing…even for a college-educated, native English speaker. Therefore, I bring in tax professionals, with a Spanish translator, to provide questions on when and where to file taxes, who needs to file taxes, and when taxes are due.

Medical Services
Depending on your community, there are various options available. Each county should have a medical county office. These offices can help with low-cost immunizations, travel immunizations, school or employment physicals, etc. Depending on the community, there may be other options, too. For example, if there is a medical school within the community, low cost-clinics with doctors overseeing senior medical students may be available.

Health Insurance
Many states have low-cost and/or subsidized health insurance plans for families with children. The county health department should have literature on programs available within your community.

High School Completion
There are many high school completion programs run by local community colleges. These programs help adult learners to successfully complete the Hi-SET (High School Equivalency test) or GED (General Educational Development) depending on which your state uses. These programs usually provide drop-in lab hours for students to receive academic help in preparation for each subject test.

Financial Aid
Much like completing taxes, filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) can be very daunting. A good resource to help can be a representative from any college’s financial aid office or a financial advisor. This session is more helpful after tax season and offered in a computer lab.

Another area that causes much stress to any community is employment. There are many resources, including Iowa Works (if you’re located in Iowa), who provide training and services for job seekers. These services can include English classes, computer training, resume building workshops, etc. At many of these organizations, there is often a person who does community outreach who will come speak to your class about the resources offered at each particular center.

One other consideration is to make sure that the students are welcomed when they arrive to your program and classroom. I have a few organizations that have donated “welcome bags” for new families. I had a local store donate a backpack. Then the backpack was filled with a comprehensive list of resources (in Spanish, if appropriate for that family), some information about the city from the tourism bureau, and prizes from some local businesses and religious organizations. It also had some back-to-school supplies. This wasn’t much, but it was a way to make the newly arrived family feel welcomed to the community.

The most important thing to remember with being a community adult ELL teacher is that you’re more than just an English teacher. The members of the migrant community desperately want to be part of the community and are extremely receptive to anything you share with them. So make sure you’re always sharing resources that are available. This will not only help the students in your classroom, but the whole community because these resources will be shared by the students.

Zachary Smith is an Adult Literacy and ELL teacher for Kirkwood Community College based in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. If you have questions regarding community resources for EL students, you are invited to contact Zachary at or via Twitter @zas85.

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