Program Mission Statement


We are a learning community of refugees, immigrants, and advocates.

Our mission is building knowledge for better lives and livelihoods.


Who we serve:

Each year, we welcome 450 adult immigrants and refugees at our doors.
Our students reflect the incredible diversity of the Twin Cities community - representing more than 30 countries and speaking nearly 20 languages.
Currently, about 70% of our students arrived in the United States as refugees, the majority from Somalia. More than half have had fewer than five years of formal education.

What we provide:

At the most basic: Education. Opportunity. Community.
We provide free, culturally sensitive English language education, as well as classes in math, computers, reading, and citizenship preparation.
But what happens here is about more than just a classroom. It's a community. We provide a space for every student to feel welcomed, safe, and encouraged.
In this atmosphere, students thrive. Often, they teach us just as much as we teach them. Please feel free to browse the stories below to learn more about the incredible determination and resilience of our students.

Why it matters:

Immigrants and refugees know that learning English is the key to unlocking opportunities for success in their new home. From healthcare to banking, transportation and shopping to employment, access to language impacts every aspect of our lives.
But learning another language, on top of adjusting to a completely new place and culture, is hard. Especially when you're expected to do it on your own.
That's why the English Learning Center exists. Because we believe that no one should have to navigate life in a new country alone, especially after years, often decades, of trauma and loss. We believe our immigrant and refugee neighbors are just that - neighbors. And we help our neighbors.

English Learning Center Stories


Distance Learning 2.0

I’ve never considered myself a computer expert, so I was a little nervous when I started my AmeriCorps VISTA role last August as the ELC’s next distance learning coordinator. However, I quickly learned the same lesson I now try to impart to students: Distance learning isn’t scary, and anyone can do it. Over the last…


A Citizen at Last

“Language is important to navigate life. You can’t fill out paperwork for a job or make a doctor’s appointment if you don’t know the language. Start learning English immediately – as soon as you arrive!” Like any of our students, Halimo is no stranger to hard times. She fled Somalia’s civil war with her husband…


Muhubo’s Journey

Muhubo has no memory of Somalia. She was just one year old when her grandmother fled with her to Ethiopia, escaping a brutal civil war. Muhubo’s parents stayed behind, hoping to send word when peace returned. But word never came. Sixteen years passed, during which Muhubo was raised by her grandmother in a refugee camp….


To Live in Brightness

From as young as seven  years old, Khadijo understood the value of giving. She grew up watching customers come in and out of the small store her family owned and noticed when some people struggled with little money. Feeling drawn to help, inspired by her reading of the Qur’an, Khadijo would take money from the…

Click here for more stories from the English Learning Center.



I enjoyed having the Mount Olivet Lutheran Church Friends Forever service group come for a conversation group with students because the students really engaged and used their English.

Mary Teacher at ELC

Education is important. If you have no education, you have no eyes. With an education, things are possible.

Ahmed ELC Student

When I see the students benefit, it makes me feel very good!

Shukri ELC Student

I see two elderly students grabbing a ride home with one of their classmates. They wave and ask about my family. I ask them, “How are you?” They respond, “If we are here, we are always good!”

Jenne Program Director at ELC