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Root Cellar celebrates new Mainers' progress in English courses

The Root Cellar, a faith-based nonprofit, recognized more than two dozen new Mainers Friday for their work in the organization's English language learning program.

PORTLAND, Maine — More than two dozen new Mainers were recognized Friday afternoon in Portland for their progress in English language learning programs. 

"The proof is today, I can speak some phrases in English, I can talk with many people in English," Nonon Kolomani said. 

Kolomani is taking English courses with the Root Cellar in Portland. The Root Cellar is a faith-based non-profit with locations in Lewiston and Portland and offers various programs for the community.

"It's just incredible to be able to be in a classroom where you see such exponential growth, and people are able to talk about the things that they care about, and you can learn so much more about them the more that they learn," Alyssa Reiff, the Root Cellar's ELL program coordinator said. 

The Root Cellar offers beginner, intermediate, and English language workshops, teaching skills like introducing yourself, the calendar, weather and season, how to ask for help, addresses, and telling time.

"When you come to any place, language is very important, communication is very important," Pastor Lawum Kayamba of D.I.C. Church in Portland said. 

Kayamba sees firsthand the impacts this program has on new Mainers. 

"You need to make relationships, you need to go to the store, you need to speak to people, so this is an opportunity for them to learn English and communicate. Because if there's no communication, there's nothing people can do."

Students come from a variety of backgrounds from all across the globe. While some students are asylum seekers, others are immigrants or refugees. Oksana Vasylenko joined the ELL program after arriving in Maine six months ago from Ukraine.

"I'm looking forward to improving my English and to get to work and also to give back help to other people," Vasylenko said, who was recognized Friday for her progress in the Root Cellar's intermediate language course.

"I learned how to read, I learned how to talk, I learned how to order a meal at a restaurant, I learned about every state, I learned about law, I learned about many things. All what I'm expressing now, is from the Root Cellar," Kolomani said.

Leaders at the Root Cellar say they hope to continue expanding the program to support the growing number of new Mainers. All instructors in the ELL program are volunteers. 

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