First Steps Basic English, a free 18-month pilot program for English-language learners, launched in the fall of 2023 in Somerset County. The pilot program, funded by the Somerset County Board of Commissioners through funds from the American Rescue Plan, is part of the free adult literacy programs for English-language learners currently available in Hunterdon and Somerset counties.
The pilot program began with five classes throughout the county to help those just beginning to learn the English language. The program also funds a Literacy Navigator, who is based with the Literacy Volunteers of Somerset County (LVSC) and helps connect individuals to all related literacy services and other supportive services. Registration for the 2024 classes has closed and a total of eight classes are expected to begin by March. To contact Stella Nieves, the Literacy Navigator, email email@example.com.
Providers of the program, LVSC, Raritan Valley Community College (RVCC) and the Hunterdon County Educational Services Commission (HCESC), are part of the Greater Raritan Workforce Development Board’s Literacy Committee, which seeks to share information about and expand the effectiveness of the free literacy programs in both Hunterdon and Somerset Counties.
In addition, the First Steps initiative is funding the expansion of tutors participating in literacy education provided by the LVSC. For more information on the initiative, visit this landing page.
The existing literacy programs receive funding from the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act federal grant that helps adults gain the necessary literacy and English skills to participate in workforce training programs and employment.
Raritan Valley Community College
For the fall of 2023, RVCC offered three new First Step Basic English classes, at Raritan Borough, Franklin Township, and Bound Brook libraries. These in-person beginner classes were offered twice a week.
The college also offers free literacy and English language skills classes to help individuals prepare for in-demand careers, such as Healthcare, Advanced Manufacturing and more. Classes will be conducted in-person and remotely with approximately 15 to 17 students per class, running for two and a half hours and meeting twice a week. Sessions run to April 2024. Zoom classes are planned at different times throughout the week, in the evening and daytime.
Classes in the Integrated English Literacy and Civics Education Programs teach skills such as listening, speaking and writing. Class participants can enroll in 120-hour English learning classes, a 10-hour OSHA 10 Certification class, or a new 140-hour Healthcare ESL class that provides an Electrocardiogram Technician (EKG) certification upon completion. The hands-on portion of the Healthcare ESL class requires attendance and transportation to a Bound Brook location and will last from September to May.
For more information, visit www.raritanval.edu/literacyx. To schedule a placement-testing session and inquire about the new Healthcare ESL/EKG certification classes, call 908-526-1200, ext. 8686, or email Bonnie.Scharf@raritanval.edu
Hunterdon County Education Services Commission, ESL
In the fall, First Steps Basic English and other English literacy classes such as high school equivalency, basic computer skills and English Language Acquisition classes ran two days per week at various times at the following locations:
- In Bernardsville, evenings at the Bernardsville Library (First Steps program)
- In North Plainfield, evenings at the North Plainfield Library (First Steps program)
- In Bound Brook, evenings at the Bound Brook Library, and evenings at the Christian Center of Somerset (including a hybrid option)
- In the Somerset section of Franklin, evenings at Franklin Middle School
- In Somerville, mornings at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
- In Flemington, mornings and evenings at the Flemington Adult Literacy Center on Bartles Corner Road
- In Lambertville, evenings at Fisherman’s Mark and the Lambertville Library.
The HCESC also operates two Workforce Learning Link sites offering adult literacy programs. These programs, offered through the Greater Raritan One-Stop Career Center and funded by the GRWDB, have virtual and in-person components. Visit www.hunterdonesc.org and click on the Adult Programs/Workforce Learning Link.
Students who are interested in placement testing should enroll through the website or click on this link.
For more information, visit www.hunterdonesc.org and click on the links for Adult Programs/English Classes or High School Equivalency. For details about the program, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 908-237-5000, ext. 13, in Hunterdon County or 908-541-5781 in Somerset County.
Literacy Volunteers of Somerset County
Volunteers at the Literacy Volunteers of Somerset County provide free English Language Acquisition through one-on-one tutoring when the student and tutor pick the time and place, which can be in-person or through Zoom. High beginner through low advanced levels will be accommodated, with the number of “seats” determined by the number of tutors. Enrollment is available through Sept. 8.
In addition, the Literacy Volunteers run Intermediate Conversation Groups on Zoom and in person at the Manville, Bound Brook and Hillsborough libraries; these are drop-in groups with no seating limits.
For more information about services, volunteering, becoming a tutor, email email@example.com, call 908-725-5430, or visit LiteracySomerset.org.
Other literacy programs
Volunteers at Hunterdon Helpline provide free literacy services through custom, one-on-one, barrier-free individual instruction, for beginner to advanced English language levels. To obtain an application, email firstname.lastname@example.org, call 908-782-4357, or visit www.helplinehc.org.
The Hunterdon County Library offers weekly online English Conversation Groups, at 1 p.m. Thursdays. These are low to high levels and there is no seat limit. Email email@example.com or call 908-713-7005.
Zarephath Christian Church in the Franklin, Somerset County, offers English-language classes, group conversations and accent reduction. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 732-560-4001.
This English-language flyer and this Spanish-language flyer highlight the partners offering literacy services in Somerset and Hunterdon counties.
Weekly text updates highlight career and job opportunities in Somerset and Hunterdon counties. Text “onestop” to 565-12 to sign up. Additional information on career-development programs offered by the partners of the Greater Raritan Workforce Development Board can be found at www.thegrwdb.org.