Oprima-1 in the Member Spotlight of SEA

February 6, 20140 Comments

Member Spotlight: OPRIMA-1

Posted in Member Stories

Imagine yourself as Alfa Barrientos, a young female Mexican immigrant who arrived in Chicago, Illinois with two small children in tow in 2011.  Unable to speak English, how would you communicate? Where would you live? Where would your children attend school? And how would you learn English while still providing for your young family? Oprima-1, a new work-study social enterprise on Chicago’s Lower West side, addresses these issues by acculturating Latino immigrants while simultaneously employing them in customer service call center positions.

As part of Oprima-1, Alfa Barrientos studies two hours of integrated English, computer and job training every morning before working onsite during a six hour call center shift compensated between $9 and $13 per hour.  By initially fielding telephone inquiries in Spanish for a major cable provider, Alfa gains confidence and more profoundly develops valuable workplace skills in her native language.  But as her English proficiency improves, these skills are transferred to her second language as she progressively answers more English customer calls. The contextualization during her afternoon work shift, of the learning that took place in the morning classroom, is the key to the language acquisition component of Oprima-1.

“Oprima-1 allows me to provide for my family while I learn English and the computer that I need in this country,” says Ms. Barrientos. “But I also have greater confidence and independence and last month received a driver’s license for the first time in my life. I was so nervous but now I take my children outside the neighborhood and explore this great city.” Griselda Piedra, Alfa’s English instructor and Oprima-1 supervisor, attributes this transformative growth to her commitment: “Alfa is motivated by her children and is constantly looking to improve her performance and has such a positive attitude.”

Oprima-1 is a twelve month program on average, but as soon as Alfa has demonstrated the necessary skills, she will be placed with a corporate partner in full- time employment. According to Ms. Piedra, Alfa is leading the way. “She has started taking English calls and is working on her pronunciation to become Oprima-1’s first certified bilingual customer service advisor. She doesn’t even realize how much she serves as an example for all current and future advisors.  The sky is the limit for her!”

Tags: Member Storiesjob skillsEnglish, PODER, Oprima-1

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