Students studying to learn English and to pass their Citizenship test had a visit from First Lady Jessica Doyle on Tuesday, June 29th. Mrs. Doyle relived her ESL teacher days and practiced some simple lessons with them. She expressed her gratitude on behalf of our state’s residents for the contributions that Hmong residents have made to Wisconsin and the US. And she took some questions from the group:
- We know that the leader of the executive branch for our federal government is our president and that he lives in the White House. Where do you and the governor live? [Mrs. Doyle: We live in the Executive Residence and when a new governor is elected we will move out and he or she will move in.]
- What advice do you have for us to learn English better? It seems hard to learn at our age. [Mrs. Doyle: You are doing the right thing now by coming here. When I was learning Arabic I had to practice eight hours a day. It takes a lot of repetition and time.]
- Why are you called the First Lady? Is there a Second Lady? [Mrs. Doyle: *laughter* That's a good question. When I visit elementary schoolchildren I tell them that their First Lady is their mother.]
The students told Mrs. Doyle that they thought she was like the mother of Wisconsin. They were very happy to meet her and felt very honored to have her come and visit.
Since coming to Stevens Point from Laos and Thailand these elderly students have learned much. More than one of them expressed through the help of an interpreter that before coming to this class they had never held a pencil before. Earlier in the class they read from a book about Independence Day. Some could read full sentences, some could read only a word or two, but all could cite the English words for things pictured in the book like flag, July and Declaration of Independence.
After visiting with students Mrs. Doyle and her assistant had the opportunity to talk with Literacy Council Director Sarah Halstead and Cheri Karch who serves on the Literacy Council’s board of directors. Karch told of the great collaboration in our community for promoting literacy and the work of Reading First, a local coalition which encourages all parents to read to their children at least 20 minutes a day.
During the brief visit the first lady commented, “No wonder your organization received an award from Wisconsin Literacy this spring. You are doing wonderful work here!” (In April Paragon Farms and the Portage County Literacy Council received an award from the first lady during Wisconsin Literacy’s Celebration of Literacy in Madison for “Outstanding Literacy Program in a Workplace.”)