Helena service helps change lives through language

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Posted at 5:52 PM, Apr 10, 2024
and last updated 2024-04-11 10:57:40-04

HELENA — Learning English, even as a native English speaker, is a hard enough task. But imagine learning how to speak, read, and write in English without all the building blocks many of us were given as children. Well, a local organization is working to help folks from near and far learn the language so many of us take for granted.

“Imagine not being able to read the prescription bottle that your doctor has given you or not being able to read street signs to get from point A to point B. It can be very frustrating, some of those things we take for granted but for some people that's a big part of their life that's missing,” says Executive Director for the Lewis and Clark Literacy Council, Tracie Shepherd.

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Liudmyla Mamusleva has been taking free classes through the Lewis and Clark Literacy Council for about 5 years. This group helps adults and their families in the Helena area learn English through reading, writing, and speech, as well as workforce and life skills. Their services include tutoring and conversation class for adults as well as Book Pals for elementary students.

After coming to the United States from Eastern Ukraine because of the war, Mamusleva only spoke one sentence of English:

“Sorry, I don't speak English,” says Mamusleva.

She began classes in California before moving to Helena where her husband is from. At first, she relied heavily upon Google Translate for everything.

After beginning private tutoring sessions, Mamusleva transitioned into a conversation class. She’s also spent time at The Shop University, a non-profit located in Helena also committed to the career, communication, and citizenship goals of English language learners.

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Andrea Pulido spent 38 years as a bilingual Special Ed teacher in California and is now teaching Mamusleva and other students in a conversation class.

“It's an incredibly positive experience. It's uplifting. People are very eager to get help and appreciative. And you're performing a real service and that just really can fill your day and make things more positive in your life,” says Pulido.

Mamusleva says that years of English classes have given her more opportunities here in America, making it easier to do everything from getting around, going to doctor’s appointments, making friends, and generally going about her day-to-day.

“I am happy now because now I feel like I look like part of people from America. Because I want to be citizens. I want to some day vote. And I’m happy now because I’m not afraid anything. I feel look like it’s my second home. Yeah, I’m really happy,” says Mamusleva.

Pulido wants to remind people, that this program is not only for those from a different country.

“We don't just work with English learners. We work with adults with literacy issues. I would really encourage people not to feel ashamed or embarrassed if they have issues with literacy and it's in English, their own language, because there are a million reasons why people struggle and it's never their fault. And we would like to encourage them to seek our assistance,” says Pulido.