S.A.L.S.A. Program Assists Community Members as They Become Bilingual


By Jan L. Apple, Rutgers Focus
On a recent evening in a small room on George Street in New Brunswick dubbed the Conversation Café, Manuel and Giovanna Hernández listened intently as Mel Bandler, a Rutgers sophomore from Montclair, explained how to politely decline a dinner invitation.
A bit later at this café inside the building housing Youth Empowerment Services (YES), Bandler found herself trying to describe what the idiom “a blessing in disguise” means.
For those whose first language is English, such nuances are second nature. For the Hernándezes, a Perth Amboy couple who emigrated from Peru — Manuel seven years ago, Giovanna seven months ago — and other area residents, acquiring English as a second language is a daily challenge.
Now a new Rutgers program titled Students Advancing Literacy Skills in Adults (SALSA) is seeking to ease such hardships. The program pairs university students serving as conversation partners with community members striving to enhance their English language skills.
SALSA students are Rutgers undergraduates from a variety of disciplines enrolled in a new course called “Community-Based English Language Education.” The course, offered through the Graduate School of Education (GSE) Language Education program, includes 30 hours of community service, or about three hours a week. 
“SALSA is a partnership in every sense of the word,” says Mary Curran, associate dean for local-global partnerships at GSE.  The program is co-directed by GSE’s Language Education program and The Collaborative, a Rutgers center that contributes to the local community through research and social action, headed by Maurice Elias, academic director and professor of psychology.
SALSA was designed in response to community needs voiced by The Collaborative’s community partners.
Read the entire article on Rutgers Focus.