In the fall of 2011, a group of community leaders who work to serve refugees in Nashville, TN came together to discuss the top barriers that refugees face in attending ESL classes. The lack of transportation surfaced at #1 on the list.
Angie Harris, former ESL/TESL director at TN Language Center – formerly TFLI, was present at the meeting and had an idea. Modeled after a bookmobile, Harris imagined a classroom on wheels that would travel to the apartment complexes where refugees live, eliminating the need for transportation to and from class. Harris mentioned the concept to then volunteer, Leah Hashinger, and from that point on, the two women passionately worked towards making Harris’ vision a reality.
With over $14,000 in personal contributions, combined with generous grants awarded by the Frist Foundation, the Martin Foundation, and the Memorial Foundation, TLC was able to purchase Tennessee’s first mobile ESL classroom.
The 34-foot truck is specially designed and engineered to be a fully-functioning ESL classroom on wheels. The unit comfortably seats ten students and includes a teacher’s work space and cabinetry for storage, as well as amenities such as white boards and a projector.
ESL to Go continues to be successful because of our commitment to community collaboration. We work closely with local resettlement agencies to collectively make English classes more accessible to their clients. Along with our use of the mobile classroom, we also partner with local churches, refugee leaders, community organizations, and apartment complexes which provide classroom space close to where refugees live. ESL to Go works with funders including the Tennessee Office for Refugees, Dollar General, and the Memorial Foundation to continue to provide high-quality English classes to the refugees in our community.