Mary Beth McGrath is passionate about language, and about helping people.  At our last Club meeting, Mary Beth told us how twenty years ago this month, she began working as a writing tutor at Quinsigamond Community College.  What she loved most about her job was interacting with people who came to the school from all over the world.  In the course of one day, she could work with students from China, Viet Nam, Poland, or Brazil, to name but a few.  As time passed, Mary Beth became an adjunct professor, and the student body continued to diversify, with people from Africa, South America and Eastern Europe enrolling at the college.  One of Mary Beth's students was a Lost Boy of Sudan who eventually went through the nursing program at QCC.  Her students shared one thing in common - they all wanted to improve their own lives, along with the lives of those they'd left behind. To help students improve their English language skills and become more fully integrated into the community, the school added conversation groups to its service offering, and Mary Beth naturally became involved.  These "conversation circles" became a comfortable, nonjudgmental safe place to practice English. Mary Beth's Students placed pins on a map to show where their origins, confirming that we are indeed a nation of immigrants.
Fast forward to the present.  Mary Beth has retired from Quinsigamond and misses meeting with her students.  About a year ago, she approached Westborough Library Director (and Rotarian) Maureen Ambrosino to see if she would be interested in implementing a conversation circle at the library. Maureen has been interested in establishing such a program, and the rest, as they say, is history.  The Library, with the help of Mary Beth and others as facilitators, now sponsors English conversation circles on a weekly basis.  Attendance varies at the weekly sessions, with as many as 18 students, and the hope is to grow the program to support a second weekly session.
At a recent class, participants spoke about their New Year's resolutions. Mary Beth told of one participant who had low confidence while job seeking due to her own poor perception of  her English language skills. Many students related that their children are embarrassed when their parents have difficulty with English in public.  These conversation circles allow participants from diverse backgrounds to comfortably practice and improve their skills.   In closing, Mary Beth related that everyone in the program expresses gratitude for new friendships, and all realize that they have more commonalities than differences.
To see Mary Beth's entire presentation recorded live at our meeting, visit our Facebook page.  For more information about conversations circles at the Westborough Public Library, contact Maureen Ambrosino, or click here for the calendar of events.
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