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Proud staffers graduate from Project SPELL

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Project Spell graduate - family
Jonathan Van Dyke/UCLA

UCLA employee Sonia Pichardo, holding her certificate, was joined by her family in celebrating her Project SPELL graduation.

Among the many Bruins celebrating graduation this month are 91 UCLA employees from the departments of Facilities Management and Housing and Hospitality Services who graduated from Project SPELL (Students for Progress in Employee Language Learning). Marking this milestone with them at a June 3 ceremony were the 107 UCLA student volunteers who tutored the staffers one-on-one over the past year, helping them improve their English language skills.

A program of the UCLA Volunteer Center, Project SPELL reaches out to employees who are non-native English speakers and seek to improve their English skills. This year’s graduating class included staffers hailing from Thailand, the Philippines, Hong Kong, China, Iran, Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Paraguay, Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast.

Said Project SPELL program director Stephanie Youngblood in remarks during the June 3 ceremony. “It’s been exciting to see the confidence our learners have been building through developing new skills and knowledge, from basic communication and literacy skills, to workplace vocabulary and safety, to professional communication and computer literacy.”

First District Los Angeles City Councilmember Gil Cedillo was the ceremony’s keynote speaker.

“You have taken determination of your own life,” Cedillo told the graduates. “You are the heroes and the embodiment of American determination.”

Graduate Sarai Acua also spoke at the event. Before Project SPELL, Acua said, she couldn’t imagine giving a speech in front of such a big crowd … but here she was. “I’ve decided to get out of my comfort zone,” she said, smiling.

To learn more about Project SPELL, click here.

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