Why one volunteer loves teaching English as a Second Language

By Morgan McGrath Akron Crossings volunteer Jake George. Photo courtesy of Jake George. Jake George, one of the many volunteers at Akron Crossings, has graying hair, and a welcoming smile.  George, an Indian-American who has been living in the United States for “many” years, as he puts it, spends every Tuesday and Thursday teaching English as a second language, or ESL, to refugees from around the world. “I kept looking for opportunities to help out,” he said.  George worked in the rubber industry for 42 years, and following his retirement, he wanted to find ways to give back to the...

Overcoming barriers at Akron Crossings

By Morgan McGrath Akron Crossings is in North Hill, tucked among a long stretch of residential areas. Bena Paisley is the founder of this non-profit, community-centric organization, and her central goal is to help refugees adjust to the United States through the guidance of Christianity.  “I encourage them [refugees] to be patient with themselves, and that they really can do this, ‘cuz it’s overwhelming sometimes,” she said.  After speaking with local residents in North Hill, Paisley realized they all mentioned their need to overcome language barriers.  “I was a staff member at a church, and we started Crossings as a...

Building communities across cultures

By Anthony Elder Cindy Mathias, member of Grace Church and volunteer for the International Welcome Center, noticed two newcomers –– both a bit nervous, even hesitant –– before a Sunday service in 2018. Those unfamiliar faces belonged to Congolese refugees, Jean and Joseph, both new to the United States, struggling to various degrees to communicate. Upon realizing their nationality, Mathias jumped to greet the young men. The Democratic Republic of Congo, once controlled by France, meant that the men surely knew some level of French (the country’s official language despite decades of independence). Mathias, a retired French teacher from Firestone...