We should so live and labor in our times that what came to us as seed may go to the next generation as blossom, and what came to us as blossom may go to them as fruit. This expresses the true spirit in the love of mankind.

-Henry Ward Beecher


ESL Staff:

Amy White, ESL Program Coordinator
awhite@ccda.net, x235

Cindy Brown, Associate ESL Coordinator
cbrown@ccda.net, x239

Diana Gibson, Associate ESL Coordinator
dgibson@ccda.net, x231

Erin Maradiegue, Associate ESL Coordinator
emaradiegue@ccda.net, x251

Kristen Gasimov, Associate ESL Coordinator
kgasimov@ccda.net, x237

Sheila Sullivan, Associate ESL Coordinator
ssullivan@ccda.net, x238

Phil Spencer, Associate ESL Coordinator
pspencer@ccda.net, x243

Hogar Immigrant Services
6201 Leesburg Pike
Suite 307
Falls Church, VA 22044
(T) 703-534-9805
(F) 703-534-9809

If you would like to have this newsletter sent to a different e-mail address or if you would like to unsubscribe from the mailing list, please e-mail emaradiegue@ccda.net.

Amy's Ramblings

If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant; if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.

~Anne Bradstreet

As the immigration services branch of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington, Hogar Immigrant Services is well-tuned in to the various immigrant communities in Northern Virginia. Between the new county law in Prince William that allows police to check the immigration status of people stopped or arrested, and multiple ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) workplace raids in the area, many in the immigrant community feel fearful and often unwelcome. In addition, we learned that our students were unaware of exactly what the new law meant and what their rights were. In response to this, Hogar staff gave a series of “Know Your Rights” workshops, most recently at Holy Family Church in Prince William County and at St. Anthony Church in Falls Church to an audience of over 120 immigrants. At these sessions, we provide immigrants with the correct legal information about the new county law, and also inform them of the rights they have in the United States if they have documents, and also if they do not. These rights include the right to remain silent, the right to a lawyer and the right to understand any documents that you’re requested to sign. The session also details how to create an emergency family plan in the event that someone is detained, including instructions to secure childcare. We have developed these educational materials in conjunction with other Northern Virginia community based service organizations. If you would like to teach your students about their rights during class, please contact Cindy Brown at
cbrown@ccda.net for the materials.

In other news, Legal Services has had a number of notable successes! Last week, three green card applications were approved. Josue Herrera*, a young man adopted by a US citizen, had applied for his green card on that basis. USCIS closed his case for unknown reasons and Hogar worked hard to get it reopened. Recently, his green card application was approved a mere 10 days before he turned 21 years old (which would have made him ineligible for a green card). Josue’s new permanent residency status will allow him to pay in-state tuition for college and be eligible for scholarships. He is a bright young man, and without his green card, college would not have been a possibility. The Rodriguez* family applied for residency based on a labor certification case. Hogar legal staff prepared the case so thoroughly that the family was not even called for an interview. As a delicious way of saying thank you, the mother of the family brought us saltenas and a Salvadorean Shepherds pie. Yum! Lastly, Jordan* was a victim of domestic violence and had an adjustment of status held up for over 2.5 years at the local USCIS office. After a year of communicating our concerns to USCIS, Jordan was finally granted a green card, permitting a trip to visit an ailing father, who is diagnosed with terminal brain cancer.

As you can see, we are fighting the good fight to stay true to our mission which is to welcome the stranger. There is still much work that needs to be done, but yet so much to be thankful for as well. Last week at the naturalization workshop, with the help of many volunteers, we processed 52 citizenship applications. That’s right! You helped 52 people on their way to becoming US citizens. Don’t miss this month’s vignette about a man’s journey to learn English and ultimately pass his citizenship exam.

Thank you for being an inspiration to each other, your students, and to all of us at Hogar Hispano.


Amy White
ESL Program Coordinator

*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of our clients.

ESL Updates

The 42nd Annual TESOL Convention
The ESL staff attended the 42nd Annual TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages) Convention in New York City at the beginning of April. The four day Worlds of TESOL conference theme this year was “Building Communities of Practice, Inquiry, and Creativity”, featuring over 1,000 sessions covering a wide variety of topics including: Assessment/Testing, Content-based Instruction, Curriculum Development, Grammar, Reading/Literacy, Speaking/Pronunciation, Technology in Education, Vocabulary/Lexicon, and Writing/Composition.

Staff attended as many of these sessions as possible by splitting up to cover more ground. We will be incorporating much of what we learned into a whole new set of trainings for you in the Fall Training Series (as well as updating our current trainings with some new ideas and examples).

Overall, the weekend was a great success and we are both pleased and energized to see that many of the ideas presented at the conference have already been incorporated here in our ESL program. We will continue to work to create new trainings and improve existing ones so that you may better serve the students in their pursuit to learn English.

Hogar staff member Diana Gibson (center) participates in a training activity at the "12 Activities for New ESL Teachers" session, Saturday, April 5.



Citizenship Classes Go To Reston!
Hogar is proud to announce the opening of a new site for its Citizenship Classes. Beginning this May, Reston Southgate Community Center will offer classes Thursday evenings, 7:00 - 9:00 pm and Saturday afternoons, 1:00 - 3:00 pm. Registration will be May 10 at 1:00 pm. The cost will be $80 for the entire, including course material.

If you are interested in volunteering in Reston, please contact Sheila Sullivan at


Teach English in Loudoun County
Catholic Charities Hogar Immigrant Services is looking for dedicated individuals to teach ESL classes once a week in Sterling, Virginia at Christ the Redeemer Catholic Church. No ESL experience or second language is necessary. We will provide training and material. This is a wonderful opportunity for someone who loves to meet new people and wants to learn more about ESL.

If you or someone you know is interested please contact Sheila Sullivan at ssullivan@ccda.net or 703-534-9805 x 238.

Tip of the Month

Using Dictionaries In Class
We know how essential student dictionaries are for the English language learner. Some students bring a bilingual dictionary to class with them to instantly look up unfamiliar words. Other students have never used a dictionary before in their lives and may be unsure of where to start. This month’s teaching tip focuses on ways to get students comfortable with using the dictionary, and even having fun with it!

Regularly using dictionaries in class can help these students practice their dictionary skills, especially finding key words in alphabetical order. It also helps to prevent the teacher from becoming a “human dictionary,” that the students verbally ask for vocabulary instead of taking the time to look it up on their own. By taking ownership of their new vocabulary and looking it up themselves, students are more likely to internalize the information and be able to use it again.

One especially effective way to use dictionaries is after every reading passage. Short paragraphs and stories in the textbooks, as well as outside materials such as newspaper articles, songs, or poems could work. After an initial read-through, have students underline the words within the paragraph that are unfamiliar to them. Then have them try to define the words using their best guess before finally looking the words up in a dictionary.

Tips On Choosing A Dictionary
Electronic dictionaries seem to be popular with students, but bound dictionaries are preferable for several reasons. They allow students to really get a feel for alphabetical order and let students practice looking up words with increasing skill and dexterity. Bound dictionaries also usually provide multiple examples of usage instead of the one-word definitions usually found in the electronic ones.

Intermediate and Advanced students can even benefit from using a monolingual dictionary. There are several simplified, “learner’s” dictionaries available that can be very useful in the classroom. These especially are full of illustrations with related vocabulary as well as multiple examples and sentences. They are a wonderful way to get students thinking about vocabulary in context!

Dictionary Games And Activities.
Completing Collocations
Give students a list of 4 or 5 common words. Students work in pairs to think of at least 3 words that typically occur with each of the words on the list. Then, students check their answers in the dictionary. You could also just give out one word and have students see which teams can come up with as many compound words or phrases as possible without using the dictionary, and then disqualify non-existent words by consulting the dictionary at the end.


  • homework
  • home team
  • homeroom
  • home base
  • home-schooled

Word Combinations
This is slightly similar to the last activity. Students must combine words to make recognized phrases. Pass out a list of words divided into two columns, with 6-10 words each. Each word in column A has a match in column B that completes a common phrase or collocation. Match the words in each column and see if there can be multiple combinations with each word. Check the dictionary for usage clues and to see if the combinations are correct.

Spell Check
Distribute a list of common but frequently misspelled words. Some should be spelled correctly, others incorrectly. Have students check the spellings in their dictionary and correct the mistakes. Students can be divided into teams to make this a race. Don’t forget to give out prizes to the winning teams!

The Dictionary Game (similar to the popular board game, “Balderdash”)
Choose a word you think no student will be able to define. Say it and spell it for the class. Each student should write a made up definition on an index card (or other uniform type of paper) and the teacher also writes out the real definition on an index card. The teacher reads all definitions out loud without revealing who wrote them. Students vote for the correct definitions. Students accrue points if someone votes for their definition or if they vote for the correct definition. A reverse version of this game is to read one definition and have multiple words as the voting choices. This can get really fun and creative!

Personal Questions
Divide students into pairs. Each pair chooses one page from their dictionary with words that are interesting to them. They take turns choosing words and asking their partners questions about the words. For example “Do you like calypso music?” or “Have you ever eaten a calzone?” Allow students to discuss the question if it sparks conversation and discourage only yes or no answers. Suggest follow-up questions. This game could be useful in conversation classes or with more advanced groups.

Special thanks to Susan Stempleski and the NYC TESOL conference for these great activity ideas!

Picture courtesy of http://nylawblog.typepad.com/photos/uncategorized/2007/05/23/dictionary.jpg

Volunteer Spotlight

This month’s volunteer spotlight begins with a one-question quiz. Let’s see how you do…

Question 1:

What do the following places have in common:
El Salvador; Merida, Mexico; Lisbon, Portugal; Guayaquil, Ecuador; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; and the island of Saipan, capital of the Northern Mariana Islands?

Give up? The answer helps to explain why Betty Lou Yellman, a Hogar volunteer at Christ the Redeemer Church, is going into her sixth year of teaching English. Betty Lou lived and raised her family in all of these places along with her husband Don who served for 30 years as a foreign service officer for the U.S. Department of State. Betty Lou states that she began volunteering as an English teacher because, “I felt I understood the problems of adjusting to a new country and a new culture. I am always interested in helping people who are settling into the country.”

Betty Lou knows first hand the experience of living in a country where the language is unfamiliar. During the years she spent abroad she took State Department classes to accelerate her understanding of Spanish and Portuguese. Her children, who attended American schools throughout their travels, are now grown and can still function well in Spanish due to their exposure to the language.

Betty Lou, originally from rural Iowa, has a background in education and spent many years teaching at the elementary level. Her first experience teaching English was in Rio where she taught a day class at a newly-founded language school. She was impressed by the school’s methodology which utilized a communicative approach, emphasizing conversation and immersion. She saw her students’ progress in their ability to converse with her and also found teaching gave her an opportunity to become acquainted with local culture.

Now living in Great Falls, Betty Lou continues to develop her teaching skills through substituting for Fairfax County Public Schools and teaching for Hogar Immigrant Services. Although she started out teaching the beginner level class at Christ the Redeemer she prefers the high intermediate level she currently teaches because of the extent to which she can converse with students and get to know them. In her classroom she likes to address students on a personal level and plans lessons that incorporate opportunities to do this. Writing activities, for example, give her great insight into her students’ lives. “Writing really brings out thoughts that people are reluctant to express in front of class,” she says. She assigns provocative writing topic questions, for example: What were your impressions of this country when you first arrived? and Describe what you did the last day that you spent in your country. Betty Lou addresses students’ real-life needs in her classes. She provides students with information on getting a GED and a library card, and she acknowledges the important role the classroom plays in providing students with a community of support. In her role as teacher she chooses to enjoy her students, finding out during a BINGO game who has strange tattoos, or who has seven dogs living in their home. One of her favorite activities is using picture images from Google to elicit creative stories from students. “I think we're all inspired by the efforts students make to come to class,” she says. “And we want to give them that hand-up. But the reason I keep coming back is that it's just simply fun.”

Thanks, Betty Lou, for your years of service!

April's Vignette

This month’s vignette focuses on Joaquin Cabrera, a former ESL and citizenship student at Hogar. Joaquin first walked into our office a little over a year ago, speaking almost no English. He was placed in our literacy class and thrived. By the end of the semester he had learned so much that he was almost ready for our intermediate class after less than 3 months of instruction! For extra practice, he took our beginner level class over the summer and then our intermediate level class in the fall. In January 2008 he registered in Hogar’s citizenship class, to prepare himself for his naturalization interview at the end of February.

Joaquin is originally from El Salvador and has been living in Virginia for nearly 20 years. He currently lives in a house in Dumfries and works as a carpenter in Washington, DC. He lives with his wife, son, and daughter and also has 2 brothers and a sister nearby. When asked if he would try to bring more of his family to the U.S. now that he is a citizen he said that he’d discussed it with his parents, but that his father is happy with his current work and does not want to move. But perhaps they will come for a vacation one day. In his free time he likes to work on his house, take his daughter to the park, watch soccer, and watch TV in both Spanish and English.

Citizenship is a long, difficult, and expensive process, but Joaquin wanted to go through it because, “people with U.S. citizenship have more rights, such as being able to vote. Also, with a green card, you generally cannot leave the country for more than 6 months. With U.S. Citizenship, as long as you maintain some kind of residence here, you can travel out of the country for a year or more.” Each applicant must successfully complete an interview and exam in English (with a few exceptions) with American history and civics questions. The test and interview are widely considered the most intimidating parts of the application process. People often study months before their exam date, taking classes such as the citizenship classes Hogar offers to better prepare themselves. Joaquin said of his test, “It was so-so. The test makes you a little bit nervous, but everything was okay. She asked 6 questions but everything I answered very well. Yes, I feel like the classes prepared me well. I went back to my class and told them how my interview was and how the test was. Everyone in the class was happy for me.” Joaquin advises people who are now preparing for their citizenship exams, “Before learning about citizenship, you need to take time and learn the basics of English. You really must throw yourself into learning English and study a lot.”

February 28, 2008 is a day I’m sure Joaquin will not soon forget. Not only did he pass his exam that day, but he was also able to attend the citizenship ceremony (to finalize the process) the same day. What’s the next thing Joaquin is looking forward to? November 4, 2008. He says, “I will definitely vote in the election this year. My son is ready to vote this year, too. He is 18 years old. We will vote together.” Congratulations Joaquin and best of luck to you in the future!

Hogar Holds Naturalization Workshop April 12
52 applications were completed during Hogar's Naturalization Workshop, held Saturday, April 12. With assistance from volunteers; lawyers, including representatives from CLINIC and DC-based law firm Arent Fox; USCIS staff; and Catholic Charities staff these applicants were able to take the first step on the road to Citizenship.

Our next workshop will be held at Arlington Mill Community Center on Saturday, June 14.

For more information about volunteering with the Naturalization workshop, please contact Cindy Brown at
cbrown@ccda.net. Volunteers of the Naturalization workshop are provided with a 30-minute training prior to the workshop.

For more information about our citizenship preparation classes and curriculum, please contact Kristen Gasimov at kgasimov@ccda.net.

Top left: Attendees of the workshop gather in the hallway to await their turn to fill out the application.
Top right: Supervisory adjudications officer, Ms. Tapia and the newly appointed chief of the Washington field office, Peter Tilley (both of USCIS) train the volunteers on key points in filling out the N-400 form. All of the volunteers for the Naturalization Workshop go through this training before sitting down with an applicant.
Second row left: Volunteer Cesar Perez helps a gentleman complete a portion of the N-400 form.
Second row right: Volunteer Jackie Argueta takes a picture of a woman for her application. All attendees go through a series of steps in the workshop to ensure that each person has an accurate and complete application, ready to be mailed to USCIS. The second step is a photo session for the pictures that will be placed on their naturalization certificate.
Bottom: Hogar staff attorney Dan Macguire discusses a detail of the form with an applicant. After filling out the application with a volunteer, applicants meet with a member of the legal team to review the information for accuracy.

Hogar Spreads Easter Joy
Last month, Hogar’s Social Services program distributed over 60 Easter baskets to needy children in Northern VA via our offices in Falls Church, Sterling, and Leesburg. The baskets were donated by parishioners of St. Mary of Sorrows Catholic Church in Fairfax Station.

The Easter basket drive is one of Hogar’s annual social outreach efforts, along with school supplies & backpacks each August and toys each December. Additional outreach— in the form of canned goods and assorted toiletries, as well as grocery store gift cards—goes on year-round out of our Western Regional Office (WRO) in Leesburg. If you are interested in donating items to our Social Services program, please contact the WRO at 703 443-2481 x22.

On behalf of the many delighted children this Easter morning, we extend our heartfelt thanks—to the St. Mary of Sorrows community and to Barbara Newton, in particular, for coordinating this effort!

Bits and Pieces

Announcing Hogar's T-shirt Slogan Contest!

Did you miss your calling in advertising? Ever think you could create a memorable slogan like "Mentos: The Freshmaker" or Nike's "Just Do It"? Hogar's t-shirt slogan contest is for you! Most of you have seen the ESL Department's stylish T-shirts emblazoned with the slogan, We change the world one verb at a time. Now we are looking for a new look that highlights the work of the entire Hogar family-Education, Legal Services, Naturalization Services, and Social Services.

Where will we find our new slogan? From our brilliant, creative and inspiring volunteers! That's right, who better to sum up what Hogar does than the people who know it best-YOU! Submissions will be accepted through the end of May. The winning slogan will receive a $50 gift certificate and a complimentary t-shirt!

To submit your slogan email Erin Maradiegue at

Help Catholic Charities Fight Hunger and Meet the Feinstein Challenge
Catholic Charities is participating in the Feinstein Foundation’s challenge to end hunger. The Foundation will match both food ($1 per can) and cash donations made between now and April 30, 2008. Our food pantry assists thousands of individuals each year.

Donors can send checks to Christ House at 131 S. West Street, Alexandria, VA 22314. Please make checks payable to “Catholic Charities” with “Feinstein Foundation” marked on them. Food also can be delivered to the Pantry at Christ House. Please call (703) 549-8644 to let staff know you are coming by to drop off nonperishable food items. Thank you for helping us to fight hunger in Northern Virginia!


Thrift Shop Needs Volunteers and Spring and Summer Items
Catholic Charities' Thrift Shop, located at Christ House (131 S. West Street, Alexandria, VA 22314) still needs volunteers for Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, or Sundays, during open hours 11am-3pm. Thanks to the volunteers, the store is now open 7 days a week. Come by and shop. There is also a need for seasonal items- shorts, tank tops, flip flops, whatever you have! Please stop by and have a look around. Ana, our Shop Manager, will be waiting for you.


High School and College Student Volunteer Internships available
Catholic Charities is looking for students who want to do something meaningful during the summer. There are all kinds of wonderful opportunities. Please go to the website at www.ccda.net. Look in the upper right hand corner of the home page where it says “Volunteer” and click on internships for more info.


Walk for Life
On April 27, support Catholic Charities' crisis pregnancy counseling, foster care, and adoption services by joining in the 25th annual Walk for Life. Two sites: Paul VI High School in Fairfax or Fort Hunt Park (Area A) in Alexandria. At Paul VI, check-in begins at 10:30 a.m. and the Walk begins at 11:30 a.m. At Fort Hunt Park, check-in begins at 11:00 a.m. and the Walk begins at noon. Registration is $20 per individual ($15 for seniors) or $50 per family. Note that the GW Parkway will be closed until 11:00 a.m. on April 27. Access to Ft. Hunt Park is also available from Ft. Hunt Rd, which extends from Rt. 1 south of I-95/495 to the Park. If you have questions, call 703-425-0100.


Catholic Charities' Golf Classic
Join us for our 16th annual golf tournament on June 30 at the International Country Club in Fairfax. Call 703-841-3835 for details.