PLEASANTON (CBS SF) — An East Bay assisted living facility is the site of a win-win situation for a group of senior citizens and the immigrant workers whose lives they are changing as those workers pursue the American dream.

“Yes I can” may be the motto of this unique class at Stoneridge Creek senior living community in Pleasanton. Once a week, the staff members become students and their instructors are the senior citizens they serve.

Adriana Bernache is one of the students.

“I feel like I’m lucky to be right now in this class,” she said.

It all started back in January when some of the senior citizens realizied they were having a hard time communicating in English with some of the housekeeping staff.

So Stoneridge Creek resident Wai Moy, a retired chemistry teacher and engineer, came up with an idea: why not launch an English as a Second Language program on the premises?

“We have the time and we have the talent, really,” Moy said.

Moy has paired off two dozen senior residents with two dozen staff members who want to improve their English.

Many of them, immigrants from Mexico or Asia, have more than one job and families at home. So, Moy reasoned, it would not be easy for them to go to traditional ESL classes. Having the classes at Stoneridge Creek seemed the perfect set up.

The public library provides the training and curriculum and the workers get paid for the one hour a week they’re in class.

Retired airline pilot Alvin Baer teaches Lee Xiong who works in the laundry room.

“She’s had, held several jobs but her vocabulary is limited to those jobs,” Baer observed.

“Thank you for the ESL. I’m happy,” Xiong beamed.

And fellow laundry worker Adriana Bernache gets practice writing and building longer sentences thanks to Barbara Hemphill.

“I feel like I can speak with more people,” Bernache said.

“She’s, I think, gaining a lot of confidence,” noted Hemphill. “And that’s really what I want for her, to be confident because she can communicate.”

The volunteers win, too, keeping their minds active as they teach eager learners.

“They want to be there and they want to learn, and that makes it a great pleasure for me,” reflected Baer.

For Moy, an immigrant from China, it’s a chance give back.

“I found my American dream,” she said. “I wish that they will be able to, too.”

And students believe they can, one word, one lesson at a time.

 

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