A chance for change
Maria Zozaya speaks smooth, accented English.
She moved to Truckee four years ago after getting two years of medical school under her belt at the Instituto Patagonico in her home country of Argentina. She might be half-way to her doctorate, but Zozaya doesn’t have an American GED and because of that, she has spent the past four years mopping floors and making beds.
“I want to get my GED and be able to get into college in the United States,” Zozaya said. “I don’t want to [be a housekeeper] anymore; I want to improve my life and have more opportunities.”
And finally, Zozaya has found a chance for change.
The new Truckee Learning and Training Center ” a joint effort by Lengua Viva, the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District, and a number of local volunteers ” began providing English courses and computer proficiency classes for non-native English speakers last week.
Already more than 100 students have signed on, filling classes to capacity, said Lengua Viva co-owner and teacher Beth Bradford, and the waiting list is growing.
“There are many people interested in this class because there are many people looking for opportunities,” said student Oralia Corral, a Truckee resident who has been working as a housekeeper at the Squaw Valley Inn for 18 years. “I want to finish my GED ” I hadn’t the chance in Mexico ” and find a less physical job.”
With funding from a one-time $43,000 grant from Nevada County, Lengua Viva and the district were able to purchase 20 new computers, fund community outreach, and pay for a teacher and tech support, Bradford said.
The new set-up is now up and running at the old Sierra Mountain Middle School campus and expanded course offerings are scheduled for the fall. When the learning center enters into its second semester, students will have the opportunity to take advanced language classes, GED preparation courses and classes to prepare them for the U.S. citizenship test.
Increasing the education level of foreign workers and resident non-native speakers is essential to local and regional businesses, said David Sullivan, director of human resources at the Resort at Squaw Creek.
“Ninety-eight percent of our positions require a GED,” Sullivan said. “But we have hired people who are working toward it or who are willing to take classes. Most employers demand that [employees] come into the market with some English, so naturally this program is of interest to us.”
The need for qualified international employees is only growing, he said, increasing education opportunities for that population is vital.
“I would guess that in 10 years from now, more than half of the hospitality labor market will be foreign workers,” Sullivan said. “The foreign labor market has grown tremendously, and it will only continue to do so.”
The Truckee Learning and Training Center provides adult learners with courses in English language, computer proficiency, GED preparation, and preparation for the U.S. Citizenship Test. The classes are $15 and run for six weeks. For more information, contact Lengua Viva at 582-9434.
– The Family Resource Center in Kings Beach on Tuesday and Wednesday from 10 a.m. to noon and Thursday and Friday from 6 to 8 p.m. For more information call 546-0952.