This Month’s Inspiring Story
Bender JCC receives funding to start a new program for low-income women
Bender JCC’s pilot program, Strong Women of Independent Means (SWIM), was one of three new programs chosen by the Redwoods Group Foundation, out of 139 applicants, as a winner for their “Innovative Challenge” matching the grant. The national competition was open to Boys & Girls Clubs, Jewish Community Centers, Camps, and YMCAs across the country.
SWIM was selected for its hopeful impact on systematic change for women and their families, and for its collaborative approach with businesses, educators, financial institutions and other leaders within the community. Matching support is generously being provided by the TD Charitable Foundation, on behalf of TD Bank, and The Marius and Minna B. Koster Foundation, Inc.
Taught from the foundation of an ESOL class, SWIM provides direct support to low-income, immigrant women by increasing their knowledge and competence in financial and computer skills while offering individualized career counseling and coaching that is not available to these women in their current workplace environments. SWIM addresses the root cause of financial insecurity through leveraging the students’ desire to learn English speaking, listening, and reading skills through the study of topics that will open the doors of opportunity.
Bender JCC has been teaching ESOL for more than 25 years through programs related to the students’ real-world interests and needs. SWIM grew out of our ESOL classes for foreign-born “front-line” workers in the health-care industry and support services. Launched in partnership with Charles E. Smith Life Communities the ESOL workforce program is now offered to Bender JCC front-line facility and housekeeping staff. Proud of his staff’s professional growth, Bob Layman, Bender JCC Building Superintendent, remarks, “There is nothing that they cannot do. The only thing that was restricting them was their lack of English speaking skills.” (The hands-on interactive nature of our ESOL training and its positive impact on the development of program participants is illustrated in this podcast, https://soundcloud.com/user-925841514/esol)
Gary Musicante, an ESOL workforce instructor, saw the impact happening outside the classroom and beyond the job as well. Students reported participating in their child’s school activities and teacher conferences for the first time, and even practicing English in the home with their families. There was an overwhelming enthusiasm by the students to continue learning and increase their marketable skills. Out of this desire, the SWIM program was born.
In January 2019, the SWIM program will launch at Bender JCC, providing these women the opportunity to dive into ESOL classes that support their financial goals and develop new competencies. Our goal is that they also achieve independence, confidence, and fulfillment.
Together, at Bender JCC, we are building Strong Women of Independent Means.