Good things come in a moose, or rather represented by one. Its resolute, bold stance, and prominent muzzles symbolize self-esteem, courage, and a balanced pride that recognizes its accomplishments, all of which are the driving forces of the Athens Latino Center for Education Services better known as ALCES. ALCES means moose in Spanish which represents gentle, loving, and compassionate wisdom. Sharing wisdom with others is the prime act of this non-profit organization in Athens, Ga.
ALCES is an organization dedicated to helping the Athens Latino community become a part of the larger Athens area community while preserving and enriching its own heritage. ALCES furthers that aim by offering education and services that will help people to advance themselves in society and make contacts within the local community. These include programs such as language education, GED training, and immigration assistance.
“ The Hispanic community is increasingly growing in Athens and most people immigrate here without the knowledge of basic English citizenship process, or an idea of future plans,” says Executive Director Susan WIlson.
The census states that Hispanics make up 10.5 percent of Athens with 10 percent unemployed, 12.9 percent of teen pregnancies, 13.7 percent public school enrollment, and only 23 percent with an Bachelors degree. These disturbing numbers demonstrate the struggle of this community in Athens.
“Alces provides resources to guide this community,” says Wilson.
Most Students are from Hispanic countries that take English language and General Educational Development, or GED, courses at ALCES.
“Teaching is my passion and it’s not about how much money I’m making while I’m here, but about those connections with people,” says former Peace Corps Volunteer Ariel Seehorn.“ They can get a job, library card, or passport based on what knowledge I can give them.”
Seehorn started as a volunteer at ALCES during college, departed for the Peace Corps for six months, and is now one of a few teachers that teaches ESOL, English for Speakers of Other Languages, at ALCES. Many students begin with classes in ESOL to fully learn the language then take GED classes to achieve advance education or jobs.
“ I would not be able to speak or write English without ALCES,” says ESOL student Yolanda Lopez from Mexico. “ I want to take my GED after I finish my ESOL classes.
Classes are for three hours and are needs-based for the student, allowing time for teachers to go back to the basics. Seehorn currently mentors Lopez through the ALCES program. Lopez says she learns a lot from Seehorn, especially English.
“When I taught in El Salvador, it was definitely different, because there it’s very basic,” she says. “ I was the first English that some of them have heard. My students ranged from kids, college students, to doctors in the community that did not speak English at all,” said Seehorn.
While looking at Lopez, “ Yolanda you pretty much speak English. You get everything. You understand everything.”
“I don’t feel that way,” Lopez replied, noting she has a long way to go.
Seehorn eases her doubt by saying, “You do though. Even if you miss little parts, you find words that you know and you figure out what I am trying to say, so you have an idea.”
English, education, and citizenship facilitates upward mobility for ALCES’ students to progress in life. ALCES builds confidence within its students to strive in their community, to be resolute, and ultimately to find the moose within.
For more information visit, www.athenslatinocenter.org or call (706) 549-5002.