LIVINGSTON, NJ — Under the new leadership of Livingston High School senior Rohat Chari, the free English as a Second Language (ESL) program at the West Essex YMCA, led by volunteer instructors and open to anyone looking to learn English in a casual, personalized environment, continues to expand.

After reading about the program last year, Chari decided to become involved because he was intrigued by “the thought of teaching others English while interacting with people from a diverse array of cultures." Now at the helm of the program, which was founded by the West Essex Y’s 2018 Youth of the Year Award recipient, Anshul Nayar, Chari said he believes there many out there who are interested in such a program who simply don’t know about it yet.

“I think this program is integral to Livingston's rich cultural landscape and ethos of acceptance,” he said. “Teaching English to others at no cost empowers students and helps them acclimate to their often newfound surroundings.”

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The ESL program, a conversational English class that was initially aimed toward immigrants and English-language learners, expanded earlier this year to include children. Established through the YMCA’s Togetherhood Committee, the program is now open to any area residents from a variety of backgrounds, ages and ethnicities looking to break down the language barrier.

Chari said that because children are “extremely impressionable,” it is extremely beneficial for impressionable teens to get exposure to other cultures.

“Involvement in this program can be a stepping stone into a world of volunteerism and social justice that is the basis of every harmonious community,” said Chari, who added that the program is led by “qualified and dedicated teachers” who strive to bring the best out of their students.

He also noted that one unique and enticing feature of the grassroots program is that "classes are extremely personal,” which gives volunteers the opportunity to become involved in their students' personal lives and learn about their individual cultural backgrounds and childhoods.

“These stories often enlighten our student teachers about the lives of people in foreign lands and adds to the comfortable aura of our classes,” he said. “I have personally received feedback from my students that they love telling their stories to our teachers and it is a huge factor in why they come to our class.”

There is no registration necessary to drop into a class and learn something new. Those interested are encouraged to stop by a class, held every Sunday at the West Essex YMCA in Livingston from 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. 

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