English as a Second Language classes at Colorado Mountain College are offered for all levels from 6 to 8:15 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays. Classes for parents with children as old as age 5 are offered 9 to 11:50 a.m. Wednesdays. Both class options are in Room 300 in Willett Hall on CMC's Alpine Campus. For more information, call ESL program director Jen le Roux at 870-4534.
David Muneton scrolled through a slideshow on his computer, pointing out the cultural highlights of his hometown of Medellin, Colombia.
"In all of Colombia, Medellin city is famous because it is so beautiful," Muneton said, passing through photos of citywide light shows, museums and carnivals. Muneton came to Steamboat Springs about four months ago to work for ResortQuest. He's one of about 75 students enrolled in the English as a Second Language program at Colorado Mountain College's Alpine Campus.
On Tuesday, dozens of students took the night off from their regularly scheduled classes to mingle, eat and share stories about their native countries at CMC's Willett Hall.
"It's a chance for them to learn about one another, to learn about each other's cultures and for everyone to begin to communicate," said CMC professor Jen le Roux, who runs the ESL program and teaches English classes of all levels.
The program serves beginner, intermediate and advanced levels, and drawing a wide variety of students, le Roux said. Some are seasonal workers who come to Steamboat with a goal of learning English and traveling in the United States. Others have been part of the community for years, working in various industries and sending their children to Steamboat schools, le Roux said.
"This is what this is all about, for them to mix as a group - and share each other's stories, and hopefully to converse," she said.
At Tuesday's event, students brought food and poster displays related to their countries and grouped into tables by region. Students from Mexico offered a colorful display of hand-wrapped tamales and other finger foods, students from Eastern Europe gathered at a table topped with a circular cake, and students from Moldova and Russia stood by a table laden with a colorful beet salad.
Lilia Sula, who is in Steamboat working as an au pair for a local family, said she chose to make "suba" - a shredded, layered salad made of onion, beets, potato, carrot and boiled egg - because it is common in her home country, Moldova. Sula also made a poster highlighting the country's main exports.
"People, they don't know too much about Moldova - it's a very small country. So I thought to do a poster and a few pictures to learn about Moldova and show them Moldova," Sula said.
With students from Europe, South and Central America, West Africa and other regions, CMC offers classes during the day and in the evenings to accommodate work schedules. The classes focus on reading and writing, with a new speaking and listening class added this year, le Roux said.
"We have a textbook and we follow a curriculum, but we also let the students drive the lessons and drive the classes based on what their needs are : because there's such an array of needs," le Roux said. "Some people need life skills, some people need work skills and some people need academic skills."
CMC also works with Bear Claw Condominiums to offer classes there, runs a Wednesday morning English class for parents with young children and encourages its students to attend Intercambio, Intergrated Community's weekly Spanish-English conversation group. The classes reach out to people from all walks of life. On Tuesday, those people came together for a few hours, le Roux said.
"I think a lot of friendships are formed through the class. There's a lot of support - if someone is unable to get here, another student will pick them up," she said.
"They come for the language, and they also come because they get a lot of support from each other and a lot of friendships."