In 1993-- at the request of Our Lady Queen of the Americas Catholic Church-- a handful of volunteers began teaching evening and Sunday classes to 200 parishioners from Central America. With access to just a single computer, the program focused on English as a Second Language (ESL), Graduate Equivalency Degrees (GED), and US Citizenship classes. Job openings were posted on a bulletin board in the hallway.
From these humble beginnings, Washington English Center has expanded its English literacy education and workforce preparation programs to adult immigrants from across the greater Washington area. Today, students representing over 100 countries are supported by 350 volunteers each term. These committed, well-trained volunteers act as teachers, tutors, computer lab assistants, librarians, job coaches and mentors.
Today's students use a well-equipped and staffed computer lab for language lesson reinforcement, computer literacy instruction, and job searches. The Employment Services program combines job counseling with industry certifications, resumé-writing and interviewing workshops, and career fairs with dozens of local employers. Extracurricular clubs, field trips, and community services and health fairs combine to create a strong sense of community.
OUR Vision and MISSION
Our vision is that all immigrants have access to the education and support they need to build a better future for themselves and their families. Our mission is to use well-trained volunteer teachers, tutors, and coaches to provide excellent, affordable English literacy and workforce preparation programs to adult immigrants. Washington English Center provides these services to all individuals-- regardless of race, religion, nationality, or ethnic origin. No student is ever turned away due to an inability to pay.
OUR Core values
- Respect: feeling and acting in a way that recognizes the value and dignity of others
- Diversity & Inclusion: valuing difference and seeking the full participation of people as individuals and in their own voices
- Empathy: striving to understand and appreciate another person’s experiences, feelings, and beliefs
- Kindness: providing comfort and/or happiness to others through your interactions
- Adaptability: changing in response to people, situations, or new information; being open to multiple outcomes or multiple paths to the same outcome.
- Age does not define our students. They range in age from 18 to 86.
- Our students have varying levels of education. Almost half have seven years or fewer of formal education. 38% were able to attend middle or high school; and 18% have attended or finished college.
- Our students are hard-working! 85% have one or more jobs.
ABOUT OUr Founder
PILAR LAUGEL (1934-2014)
As we celebrate the accomplishments of our students year after year, we do so with profound admiration for our founder, Pilar Laugel.
Pilar provided the initial vision for Washington English Center (f.k.a. Language ETC) and was the motivating force behind this thriving, community-based organization for many years.
In addition to her dedication to WEC, Pilar worked closely with the Ethiopian Community Center, was a tireless volunteer with Hospice, and was a faithful member of the Board of Directors of the Carlos Rosario School.