By Ling-Mei Wong
The AACA’s Next Steps Transitional English Program celebrated its 20th anniversary on Jan. 17. Current and former students shared their experiences in America, while teachers congratulated them on their success.
Next STEP was the first transitional English program for adult English language learners to get into college. Cindy Siyuan He was one of the first students in 1993, who went on to Bunker Hill Community College and completed graduate school at Brandeis University. Today, He runs her own real estate business.
When He arrived in America, she was taught by Richard Goldberg, Next STEP education director at the Asian American Civic Association. (The Sampan newspaper is published by the AACA.)
“Richard was my very first teacher in the United States,” He said. “He is an excellent educator — patient, enthusiastic and kind. … You not only taught me the English language, you helped me build confidence. Looking back 20 years ago, my American dream started with AACA.”
Bunker Hill Community College and the Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center were the first partners, with the program funded by the state for just three years.
“Next STEP has sent more people to college than any other program in Boston,” Goldberg said. “The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education did some research and found 330 of our students enrolled in college. This is not just the most in Boston, but the most in the state of Massachusetts.”
The program’s funding was renewed and increased by DESE last year, despite other programs being cut.
“We’re No. 1 and we can’t believe we’ve had this much success,” Goldberg said.
Haider Alhemayri was another student who completed the Next STEP program in 2012. He came from Iraq with medical training but was stuck working as a cashier. After being accepted into the Boston University Bioscience Academy certificate program in 2012, he will start working at a hospital in June.
“I’ve been here for a great time with wonderful people,” Alhemayri said. “AACA did not just teach English, but how to be successful in America.”
Mary Ling, another student from the class of 1993, spoke at the party. She completed community college, studied at Northeastern University and opened her own accounting firm.
“I owe my life to AACA,” Ling said.
Cindy Siyuan He (left) and Richard Goldberg (right), at the 20th anniversary of Next STEP.
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