Business Times of Edmond, Oklahoma August 2018 - Page 16

April Gao works with a student on his English grammar skills. First Stop on an International Journey is the English Language Center STORY & PHOTOS BY KRISTY STURGILL “ I almost never miss my home because I am at home here,” said Boubacar Wane in a video testimonial for the English Language Center. Wane is from Mali, and after completing the program, he continued his education at Southwestern Oklahoma State University for a degree in Information Technology. “When the students get to this country, they come straight here. I had a new student today who’s starting on Monday, and he’s only been here for one day. He had a friend who is enrolled at Southwestern Oklahoma State University who encouraged him to come here,” said Jaime Watts, English Language Center director, “Our mission is to help students to learn English so that they can go on to achieve academic success or whatever their next goal may be.” 16 August 2018 | The Business Times Watts said the students inspire her because of their dedication to improve their lives and pursue higher education. “We do have a melting pot of difficult cultures here, but they do all have some- thing in common. Our students are very dedicated, very friendly and they are all courageous,” she said. “All of these students remind me of the most important thing, which is just to be yourself, appreciate your own culture and don’t be afraid to express who you are.” Watts said 96 percent of the students attend an American university or college after completing their work at the English Language Center. The students attend language classes Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. and on Fridays from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. “We’re an intensive language program, so that means that students are here learning English five days a week,” Watts said. James Stewart, Watts’ father, started the program 36 years ago, and he taught at the University of Central Oklahoma in the English Department for 20 years before that. Watts said she continued in his footsteps because she enjoys watching students who come into the program improve their language skills and continue on to higher education. “It’s really inspiring to see people change their lives. This is a place where people transform. Students who come here are from a different culture and language, so it takes a great deal of courage on their part, and I admire them for it,” Watts said. “I love that the organization plays a part in what they eventually become and what they achieve.”