Although she holds two college degrees from her native country of Russia, Olga Gorlanova is enrolled at BRCC to improve her skills in reading, writing, and speaking English. Her immediate goals are to pass the TOEFL exam (test for non-native English speakers) with a high score and to eventually earn a project management certificate from the University of Virginia. After that, she hopes to pursue a career in marketing/project management.
Thanks to part of a Department of Labor grant administered by Tidewater Community College, Olga is well on her way to achieving those aspirations. The grant, which assists adults in acquiring skills, degrees, and credentials for high-wage, high-skill employment, provides Olga and other ESL students with one-on-one tutoring and a class in accent reduction. “I enjoy many things about classes at Blue Ridge,” Olga says. “Because there are people from so many different countries, I am getting practice understanding many accents. I also learn about other cultural backgrounds and American culture while improving my English.”
Olga moved to America from Moscow in 2011 with her American husband whom she met when he visited her country. She began studying English in fourth grade, but meeting her husband provided an “immersion” experience—she could only communicate with him in English. Now the two reside in Stuarts Draft with their young son who is learning both English and Russian. “It will give him [my son] more cultural experience and make him more open-minded,” she says. “This will give him an advantage, I think.”
According to English Instructor Pam Yates, BRCC’s English as a Second Language program served about 100 students this academic year with plans to expand to 200. More than ten native languages are represented. Three levels of English are offered each semester, with added grant-funded benefits of career advising, tutoring, and accent modification with a trained speech pathologist. “Our tutors help students with grammar, research, essay writing, and students can bring in assignments from any class or job-related writing and get help in The CAVE,” Yates noted.
Olga is a big fan of the individualized tutoring she’s received, working with Dr. Joel Hodson. “I’m very happy that BRCC has this tutoring. It really helps the individual needs of each student focusing on what we need to practice more,” Olga says.