ESOL club partners with Project Horizon

Washington and Lee’s ESOL program and the local domestic abuse shelter collaboratively offer English classes and other services English classes


Elizabeth Underwood, Arts & Life Writer

Since January, Washington and Lee’s English for Speakers of Other Languages program (ESOL) has teamed up with local organization Project Horizon to offer English courses and tutoring to the greater Lexington and Rockbridge communities.

ESOL is a student-spearheaded program at W&L that primarily works with the Latinx community in Rockbridge County to provide services like interpretation, translation of documents, one-on-one tutoring, and language classes for adults.

Project Horizon provides confidential services free of charge to victims of abuse in the Rockbridge County area. The organization hopes to reduce domestic and sexual violence in the local area through crisis intervention services and prevention programs.

The president of ESOL at W&L, Angel Vela de la Garza Evia, ‘18, said working with Project Horizon has been a fruitful partnership that he hopes will continue in the future.

“I think Project Horizon provides a great service,” he said. “With our resources and our services, we’re able to combine and deliver English classes, painting classes and activities that the community can enjoy.”

ESOL and Project Horizon work together to offer English classes at Project Horizon every Monday night from 7-9 p.m. for non-English speakers. The classes often feature guest speakers, such as doctors or police officers in the community, so people can make connections.

Fiorela Giraldo de Lewis is a community outreach team member at Project Horizon. Giraldo de Lewis said the program has already grown in its first few months, with more and more people attending the classes.

“They feel so comfortable here that it feels like another house,” she said. “And that’s what I want. I don’t want them to come here just when they’re having trouble.”

Kathryn McEvoy, ‘19, will serve as next year’s ESOL co-president alongside Lorena Hernandez-Barcena, ‘19. McEvoy believes the weekly classes provide more than just help with learning English; they establish a safe place for people in the Latinx community to promote discussion.

“We use it as an opportunity to reach the Latino community…to seek help with immigration or to talk about the domestic violence shelter,” McEvoy said. [These are] things that they wouldn’t normally seek help from on their own but that we can present to them in that environment.”

McEvoy said she also encourages Washington and Lee students to volunteer with ESOL and Project Horizon because the organizations offer a way to meet more people in the Rockbridge County community.

“I think there’s a tendency on this campus to live inside a bubble,” she said. “About eight minutes down the road, there is a completely different world that we have so much to learn from.”

On the evening of Monday, March 19, ESOL collaborated with Casa Hispanica and the Latino Student Organization (LSO) to host the community family event and screening of the animated film “Coco” in Spanish with English subtitles.

Members of ESOL said that they are always looking for new volunteers. As co-president next year, McEvoy especially hopes to continue branching out into the community and strengthening ESOL’s efforts to maintain contact with each individual that club members have established a relationship with during this school year.

Program leaders also hope to strengthen the organization’s presence on campus by coordinating with other campus groups to put on special events.