English students ‘heroes’ at Project Light

Maria Elena Royett rides her bicycle to Project Light every day so she can learn English.

“I want to speak better English and Project Light is helping me very much,” Royett, who is from Venezuela, told fellow students at the nonprofit English language school.

Royett, who is in the beginning English classes at the literacy center, 1104 14th St. W., Bradenton, was one of about 45 students recognized during Project Light’s certificate ceremony.

“We are proud of you,” Project Light board president Guy Larreur said. “We know that it’s not easy.”

Project Light, which was started by Sister Nora Brick and Ann and Ed Griffin, has been in operation for more than 20 years. The students, who range in age from 18 to 89, come to class each week to improve their English speaking, reading and writing skills. The nonprofit’s mission is to “empower adult speakers of other languages to participate more actively in our community through English Language Proficiency,” according to a fact sheet.

During Thursday’s ceremony, Larreur got choked up as he shared with the students that he once sat where they sat. Larreur came to the United States from Haiti.

“I know what it is like to leave your country not knowing where you’re going and what is going to happen to you,” he said. “I am doubly proud of the effort because I know it is not easy for you to come here and learn English. As far as I am concerned, you are heroes because you are here and against all odds you show up day in and day out trying to learn the language.”

Learning English has helped Liberto Zuniga at Publix where he works.

“It is necessary to communicate with other persons,” said Zuniga, who is from Cuba.

After all the students received certificates Thursday from the teachers, who are all volunteers, they shared in song, singing “This Land Is Your Land” and “Somos El Barco.”

“It is exciting for me,” Carlos Aleman, who is from Argentina, said of being recognized. “I learn to speak and grammar.”

Claire Aronson: 941-745-7024, @Claire_Aronson