By Ling-Mei Wong
When Danfeng “Annie” Chen came to America, she had no family and no English skills.
She enrolled in basic English classes, but felt stuck in terms of improvement. That changed when she signed up for the Next Steps Transitional English Program in 2009 at the Asian American Civic Association. (The Sampan newspaper is published by the AACA.)
“My English skills have improved greatly,” Chen said. “If I hadn’t taken part in Next STEP, I wouldn’t have gotten my broker’s license and my English would have been much worse.”
Today, Chen is the senior marketing director for the World Financial Group (an Aegon company). She educates middle-class and low-income families on how to manage money, with no charge to the clients.
“Each person is affected by money, but many don’t understand inflation, taxes or financial management,” Chen said. “After we educate them, they will tell us about their personal money issues and we try to help them.”
Along with improving her career, Next STEP made Chen feel welcome. “My teacher Richard Goldberg didn’t just give me English and job training skills, he gave me a ‘family’ feeling, because I was alone in America,” she said.
Goldberg is Next STEP’s education director. “Annie was a great student, she really pushed herself,” he said. “It’s just a pleasure to teach folks like her, who are there because they want to be.”
“Next STEP is a good bridge to go to college and join the work force,” Chen said. “It’s a good platform for new immigrants to greatly improve their English, job skills and go to school.”
Next STEP celebrates its 20th anniversary at 5 p.m., Jan. 17 at 87 Tyler Street. Before 2010, the program was known as Massachusetts English Literacy Demonstration and later as the ABE program. Current and former students can RSVP at rsvp.aaca-boston.org.
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