YONKERS, N.Y. – Some of Yonkers' newest residents put their English-speaking skills to the test Tuesday in front of a live audience.
More than 70 adult students in Yonkers’ Pathway to Success program for English as a second language took to the stage at Palisade Preparatory School, the last day of the year-round course.
The adult students sang, acted in skits and shared desserts in a performance meant to display the progress they have made in learning English. Brian Gray, principal of the Pathway to Success Summer Program, said the show was especially impressive for some of the students who had been in the United States for only a few weeks.
“All the students that performed today are in the process of learning the English language,” he said. “But some of them haven’t even been in the country for a month, and they are already onstage performing.”
Yonkers’ program tutors non-English-speaking adults nearly year-round, from late August until the end of July. The goal is to prepare the adults to advance their education by obtaining General Educational Development diplomas or by taking college courses, or simply to allow them to land jobs, Gray said.
Tuesday was the culmination of the course work from throughout the year, and for many of the students, the first time they had spoken English in front of a group of people, he said.
“That kind of experience can pretty much go right down to how do you carry yourself in an interview,” he said. “Are you comfortable being in front of people you don’t know?”
Unfazed by the small crowd, each student took a turn under the bright lights of the auditorium stage, some talking about their favorite foods or New York City landmarks, while more advanced students rattled off facts about the Big Apple.
Students said they learned that Manhattan was bought by the Dutch centuries ago for $24 and that Queens is the most ethnically diverse borough, with more than 150 languages spoken and 100 nationalities represented.
Holding flags from their native countries, singers belted out a version of “It’s a Small World After All” before breaking into a short poem.
“I love a world of difference where I can take you and tell you things about myself and you will understand,” the students said in unison.