PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Just over a year and a half ago, Ogalis Hernandez left her home in the Dominican Republic for love. She moved to Rhode Island to be with her now-husband, but struggled with the language barrier.
“I was so scared to talk with English-speaking people,” Hernandez recalled.
Her husband brought up the Rhode Island Family Literacy Initiative (RIFLI), and after hearing about it, Hernandez was in.
“I wanted to improve because I wanted to get good job, to be able to do things by myself, to go to the doctor without an interpreter,” she said.
The Rhode Island Family Literacy Initiative is currently celebrating its 25th year. This program offers citizenship classes and computer classes at public libraries across the state, and more than half of the students in the program take advantage of the free English language classes to help them succeed.
“Some people are looking to help their kids with homework [or] just order something in a restaurant,” explained Sabine Adrian, RIFLI’s Language Pathways Coordinator. “There’s lots of different reasons people come to start learning, but I think everyone that does make that first step of showing up to register is very motivated.”
Students first take an assessment to be placed in a class of about 20 other people at a similar level. They then take classes at the library or online twice a week for about two to three months.
“They often form very close relationships with a teacher, with the other students in the class, and help each other learn the language, but also navigate life in the U.S.,” Adrian said. “It’s really a support system to help people figure out basic things that they need to get around and improve their language skills.”
Hernandez believes if she can do it, anyone can.
“It’s hard, but you can try,” Hernandez said. “It’s not easy when you are an adult because you need to invest more time. You need to study more, you need to memorize, but if you have a purpose, you can make it.”
Hernandez is now looking for ways to volunteer with the program to help other students like her.
Classes for the fall semester are already underway, but you can register for the next semester, which starts in January.
The annual program registration fee is $25, but classes are free.
For more information, visit the program’s website.