New SWCC instructor’s targets: ESL, biz help

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By Nick Johansen


Southwestern Community College in Red Oak is welcoming a new instructor. 

Starting Sept. 1, Vivionne Grace Keli will head English as a Second Language classes Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., 1 to 3:30 p.m., and 5 to 7:30 p.m. 

Keli, who was born in New York, moved to California when she was 14, and lived in Sacramento for a time working with non-profit organizations and in the movie industry. Keli is currently studying for a doctorate in clinical psychology. 

Keli also does missionary work, and in 2014, she was transferred to Bedford where she was the program director of a ministry aiding families recovering from pastoral abuse.  From Bedford, she worked for a time with the Clarinda Academy before coming to SWCC to teach second language classes. 

“I’ll be assisting anyone in the community who is struggling with English and help them become empowered,” Keli said. 

The class structure, Keli said, is organized so that everyone who wishes to study will get the opportunity to take part. 

‘The early classes are for those that aren’t working at this time. Those that are working can attend those evening classes to learn and become empowered,” said Keli.

Additionally, Keli is working with area businesses and organizations to see what the specific needs are. 

“In the 2011 census, the Spanish-speaking population jumped 4.2 percent. Red Oak is getting an influx of Spanish-speakers. For the second-generation family members,  they know English, but in most cases, their parents usually don’t.”

Based on the various places she’s lived, and the experiences she’s had, Keli said she’s excited for this new opportunity. 

“It’s going to be the adventure of a lifetime. It’s a new beginning for me. This is a long-needed program. It’s also free. The class is free, and so are the books. All people have to do is come here, and dedicate at least five hours a week. It’s an investment in the future,” Keli said. 

Becoming familiar with the English language, Keli said, not only empowers the students, but also makes them more comfortable in the community.

“One thing I’ve noticed is that if people can’t communicate effectively, they don’t want to go to certain places, because they don’t feel confident. It’s time for them to get that help they need. SWCC has been looking for an ESL instructor for a long time, and now, here I am!”

While the initial move from California to Bedford was a bit of a shock at first, Keli said she’s thrilled to be living and working in southwest Iowa. 

“I like it here. The only thing that took some getting used to was the snow,” commented Keli. 

If anyone in the community knows anyone struggling with the English language, be it through social activities, the workplace, or church, Keli encourages referrals. Also, Keli said if anyone is unable to attend the classes, other arrangements can be made. 

“I’m happy to meet with anyone. If there is a conflict, we’ll work something out.”