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A Connecting Experience

Contributed by Ashley King, LCNV Admissions Manager

Here at the LCNV we have a saying that we are all life-long learners. This year I have been learning about community. What is a community? By definition, it is a social group living in the same place or having particular characteristics in common.  I think community is much more than just having characteristics in common. There is a bond that develops because of similar experiences and motivations that are shared in a group. While working with many students, volunteers, and staff members during the fall semester, I have experienced and watched connections begin and grow in the classroom, at trainings and in the office. 

In the morning classes at the James Lee Community Center, students get a break during class and come to the kitchen to drink coffee and talk to their classmates in English. These are people from different countries that may have never spoken to each other outside of the classroom. Yet, through LCNV, they are bonding not only in their common goal to learn English but also in their life experiences. At the end of the semester we have a celebration potluck for the students. They bring food from their countries and get certificates recognizing the hard work they put in throughout the term. During this time, I get to see how close the students have grown during the semester by watching them talk, save seats for each other and take pictures together.

As a BEST Plus Trainer, I teach volunteers how to assess English language learners’ (ELLs) oral skills. At the beginning of the training, volunteers are individuals, and by the end of the training, they are passionate BEST Plus testers inspired and ready to assess ELLs in the classroom. I have witnessed brand new volunteers collaborate with each other in the training to learn how to provide the best guidance to ELLs. While volunteering at registrations or post-testing sessions, testers enthusiastically talk about the different types of students they tested and how they experience situations that were discussed in the training.

The sense of community starts with the LCNV staff. This year I have observed and felt personally how close the LCNV staff has grown. During meetings and special events everyone has a similar passion, determination and willingness to devote themselves to helping our students. We have two main departments in the office – Academic and Student Affairs and Development and Public Relations. During the fall registrations, everyone in the office pitched in to assist. Whether it was a registration in Lorton or in Herndon, or whether it was being a floater, a tester, or another set of hands to enter student data, everyone helped out in whatever way was needed to get students and instructors off to a solid start. After all, LCNV staff and volunteers come together with the shared motivation to empower our students to participate more fully and confidently in their lives.