St. Albert newcomers got a $27,000 boost to their English skills last week, thanks to a grant from Lions Clubs International.
About 30 guests were at a storefront by the St. Albert Centre food court on Nov. 17 to celebrate the grand opening of the new St. Albert Further Education classroom. The classroom, which has been in its current location since September, hosts Further Education’s English language courses for newcomers from Ukraine and other nations. It is funded by a $27,000 grant from Lions Clubs International Foundation.
The number of people enroled in Further Education’s English classes (which are essentially free, as the group often waives the fees for them) has quadrupled to about 160 per semester since Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022, said executive director Cheryl Dumont. Further Education has set up a classroom in St. Albert Centre to meet this rise in demand, but prior to last September had to use borrowed furniture to run it.
St. Albert Host Lions Club members Barb and Jack Riley knew of the classroom’s struggles as volunteers with Further Education. Last June, Barb said she and Jack learned the Lions Club International Foundation had launched a new grant available to any region that had more than 100 Ukrainian newcomers — a threshold St. Albert had passed many times over. (There were about 500 in town as of this month, Dumont said.)
Barb and Jack spearheaded the effort to get the grant for Further Education and rallied Lions Club members to buy, move and assemble the classroom’s new furniture last September. Dumont said the grant paid for the classroom’s furniture, supplies, and half the cost of its teachers for the next year.
As part of the grand opening, Elaine Tahririha, one of the classroom’s teachers, taught the crowd to sing We Are Drops — a song she teaches to her English students.
Tahririha said her students previously had to sit on uncomfortable chairs and rely on a rickety whiteboard and a single flip chart for their lessons. Now, they have brand new tables and, chairs, multiple charts and whiteboards, and audio-visual equipment.
“It’s clean, it’s bright, and welcoming,” she said of the classroom.
“We just hope we’re going to have another space after Christmas.” (The classroom has to move to a different space in the mall, as a business is moving into its current space, Dumont said.)
St. Albert Mayor Cathy Heron said Further Education was an important resource for her when she hosted two Ukrainian families earlier this year. Those families now have homes, jobs, and happy lives in the St. Albert region.
“This (classroom) is fantastic and is what St. Albert is all about. We open our arms to anyone who wants to come here.”
Olena Kleshnova, who arrived in St. Albert from Ukraine last August, said she started taking English classes through Further Education in September and loves learning the language.
“Lions Club, thank you for helping us,” she said.
Visit stalbertfurthered.com for details on Further Education’s English classes.