By Grace King, Mt. Pleasant News
Five computers programmed with Rosetta Stone now sit at First Presbyterian Church awaiting use.
The computers were a donation from the Iowa State University Extension Office. Thursday morning, they had their first curious students ? a mother and daughter ? interested in learning English.
?We?re really excited about this opportunity,? said Tammy Shull with Iowa Welcomes Our Immigrant Neighbors (Iowa WINS).
Following the immigration arrests at MPC Enterprises on May 9, the Presbyterian Church attempted to offer English as a second language classes. Diane Cullett, formerly a tutor with Southeastern Community College, said no one showed.
Overwhelmed with trying to locate family members at Hardin County and Linn County jails, trying to raise $10,000 bond and make ends meet at home, Cullett said families were too overwhelmed to take on another project like learning English.
Rosetta Stone offers a new opportunity, however. Shull said both English and Spanish speakers interested in continuing to learn a new language can come to the church at their convenience and learn at their own pace. Rosetta Stone is a language learning software.
?A lot of people are talking about wanting to learn Spanish,? Shull said. ?This makes it a little more possible. People can get basic conversation down.?
Shull herself plans on dusting off her tandem bike and her Spanish ? biking over to the church with her husband throughout the week to use the software.
The computers were originally a part of the New Iowan Center through the Extension Office that disbanded eight years ago, ISU Extension Regional Director Janet Smith said. The policy at the Extension Office is to find a use for anything they are no longer using, including donating to nonprofits. While the computers are 12 years old, Smith said it was the Extension Office?s hope that Iowa WINS could get what little life is left in them.
Since the raid took 32 men from work a month and a half ago, the First Presbyterian Church has become a revolving door of activity with families seeking a safe haven, lawyers, financial help or shopping at the food pantry.
The Sunday following the immigration raid, Shull reported a lot of immigrants worshipping with the rest of the congregation, making the church their home as well.
Now, Shull is even talking about starting a bilingual Bible study, a place for Spanish and English speakers to come together and have beginner conversations with each other using phrases such as ?My name is ?? and introducing their families and what they do in the community.
The church is currently serving 25 affected families but hope to continue to reach out to the other seven families not using their services.
Iowa WINS is always looking for more Spanish speakers to act as bilingual contacts and advocates for the families.
The Rosetta Stone computers are available for use by anyone in the community on Mondays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to noon and Tuesdays from 5 to 6 p.m.