Youngstown English Center moves online to deliver vital resource

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To celebrate its 100th anniversary, the center is moving and going entirely virtual.

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – For years, a fading sign was the only visible clue for what may have been one of the Valley’s best kept secrets – The English Center of Youngstown.

To celebrate its 100th anniversary, the center is moving and going entirely virtual.

The English Center of Youngstown offers English language instruction for immigrants living in the area, averaging about 100 students each year.

“We take them anywhere from those who have no opportunity for education in their own countries in English, or even less, to those who have doctor’s degrees,” said teacher Rosemarie Kascher.

For the last seven years, the center has rented space in the basement of Temple Rodef Shalom on the city’s north side. When Covid-19 forced the building to close, instructor Mary Toepfer suggested creating a pilot program using the Google Classroom platform to teach online.

“So, there was a learning curve for our students to try to get them acclimated but once they did, we were off and running,” Toepfer said.

Along the way, instructors realized there was an added benefit to helping their students master the internet. Toepfer said they became much more capable of assisting their own children with technology.

Although the classes are offered for free, it costs about a $1,000 per student to operate the center, which now runs entirely on individual donations and gifts from local foundations.

Kascher, at 91 years old, has been at the center for the last 20 years and has no plans to leave.

“I’ve worked with the finest teachers. I’ve taught at three colleges and universities and this is the finest,” she said.

The center’s next program, all online, begins next month.

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