JENNY MOODY FOR THE NEWS-SUN
Every Tuesday evening a small group of individuals gather around long tables, and the chatter is amicable and punctuated with soft laughter as individuals greet each other.
Two young men in white shirts, ties, and name badges stand at the front of the room welcoming the group — in Spanish.
English class at Centro Hispano is about to begin.
Graciella Ortega has been attending the English classes for the last month at the Centro Hispano, which is located at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS), 3720 N. Grimes St., in Hobbs. Hearing about the classes from a friend she decided to attend.
“It is necessary and important to learn to speak English” Graciella said with a smile. “The classes have been helpful. I enjoy them and am learning.”
Having grown up in Chihuahua, Mexico, Graciella feels more comfortable using Spanish, but having moved to the United States years ago with her husband she soon realized how important it was to learn English.
“When I had small kids, everything was hard. English was necessary for doctors, schools, and so on. Not knowing English made everything hard. Simple things like ordering a hamburger or going to the store were difficult,” said Graciella.
Aware of the need to learn English, Graciella sought out classes, taking advantage of programs in Albuquerque and after moving to Hobbs she began taking classes at the New Mexico Junior College.
Reflecting on her English journey, she remembers the frustration of not understanding and being unable to help others in her various jobs, and the confusion present when she couldn’t communicate her feelings and needs to employers and customers.
“Learning English opens doors to better jobs, but it also opens opportunities to communicate better with others,” she said.
Centro Hispano, a community outreach program of the Hobbs LDS, has a goal of bridging the gap so many immigrants face when coming to America.
Kyle Rebur, the religious leader for the Spanish Branch of the Hobbs LDS, spends his Tuesday evenings at the church helping missionaries and other teachers in their quest to fulfill this mission.
“Our hope is that Centro Hispano will help and reach out to those who have immigrated to Hobbs and give them the opportunity to learn english which will in turn help them to have a better quality of life here in America,” said Rebur.
Many associate the LDS with their missionary or proselytizing efforts. It is not uncommon to see their missionaries in Sunday attire walking in neighborhoods or bicycling around the city as they search for individuals to share a religious message.
While sharing their religious doctrine is an important part of their belief system, the missionaries do not use Tuesday nights at Centro Hispano to share the Gospel.
Each class is taught using manuals from the English Connect program. There are two manuals that begin with basic “beginner English.” Each class has the opportunity to participate in online learning and daily language practice through the website centro-hispano.org.
Hobbs joins other Centro Hispanos that can be found scattered across the southwest in cities such as Las Vegas, Albuquerque, and Houston.
While the Hobbs location currently offers English classes, help with employment and academic paperwork, they hope to ultimately expand their services to include addiction and recovery classes, self reliance classes, community resource information, tutoring and employment help.
This particular Tuesday night, Graciella has brought along a young friend.
“This is my neighbor’s daughter. She doesn’t know English well as she has grown up in a home where they speak only Spanish,” said Graciella. “I want her to learn English. It is important for her if she is going to succeed and have an easier life. I am also waiting for another friend to join us tonight. I hope she comes.”
Centro Hispano is open 6-7:30 p.m. Tuesdays at the Hobbs LDS and can be reached through their Face-book page Centro Hispano.