English students express thanks for opportunities in America

In Russian, they say spasibo.

In Ukrainian, they say dyakuyu.

In Hindi, they say dhanyavaad.

And in Spanish, they say gracias.

And so it was that on the Monday before Thanksgiving about 15 adults studying English with the Milford Adult Education program gathered on the second floor of the Parsons Government Center to share a dish from their home country and tell others how they say “thanks” in their language, and to talk about what they are thankful for.

The people in the room spoke English to varying degrees. Many spoke several languages and English was the newest they were trying to master as new residents of this country.

Some have been here several years and others less than a year. Some came with spouses who got jobs here, others came to pursue a better life for their families.

Roberto DaSilva is from Brazil, and he aspires to be a professional soccer coach. He said he is most thankful for his one-year-old daughter, and the chance to give her a better life in this country.

The English as a Second Language (ESL) students said they are thankful for the opportunities they have found in America.

Hong Zheng from China said that in America people who work hard can give themselves a good life. She reminded those in the room that in some countries, it is not permissible to say you disagree with the government, to let your views be known. Others in the room agreed that free speech is something to be thankful for.

The students said they are thankful for the opportunity to learn English here. Milford’s Adult Education program, under the direction of Lori Hart, runs free ESL, citizenship and GED classes, along with a host of other classes.

ESL teachers Teresa Cavaliero and Rachel Yakubik work with about 30 students Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. at the Parsons Government Center. There are also night classes Tuesday and Thursday from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at Foran High School.

The ESL students who gathered just before Thanksgiving talked about their hopes and dreams.

Gianfranco, who is from Peru, is a pilot with JetBlue Airways.

“My goal is to become a captain in this country and for my wife to speak perfect English,” he said as he smiled at his wife, who seemed a little ill-at-ease speaking English out loud in front of a large group.

Fabiola, his wife, said she is thankful for her husband and her son and the chance to be here, and she hopes to one day speak “perfect English.”

Priyanka Karmaker from India worked in a pharmaceutical company in India and hopes to get a corporate job here and become successful.

Karmaker said missing family and festivals back home is difficult when you move to a new country.

Kate Stolear from the Ukraine said coming into a new environment is a challenge for those leaving their home country. “Imagine if you dig up a tree from where it’s growing and put it in a different place,” she said.

The first weeks and months are the hardest, she said, as you adjust.

She came to the United States with her husband, who had been studying to be a doctor.

“It was his dream,” she said, “and I was happy when he got a job here.

“I think I will find myself here too,” she said, adding that she is thankful for “peaceful skies over head” and the kind people she has met here.

Several expressed thanks for the chance to study English in Milford and to connect with others like themselves, who are new to this country and its language and customs.

Because it was Thanksgiving week, they all brought food unique to their culture to share, and the room was filled with the savory smells of chicken and pork, sausage and peppers, apples and chocolate, and chatter in different languages and English colored with varying accents.

Olga Chekhutska from the Ukraine, summing up what others expressed, said, “I am thankful for the opportunity life brought to me, and the opportunity to be in this country in this class with these people, making my life better.”