Canton Connect Center making a difference

Canton Connect Center making a difference

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CANTON – Josmar Hernandez is excelling in elementary school and helping his mother learn English, thanks to the help of the Connect Center here.

Hernandez grew up in Canton after his family moved from Mexico in 2012. He was one of the first students to enroll at the Connect Center in September 2021 and is currently a fifth grader at Canton Elementary School.

Hernandez is winning awards in school for excelling in his classes, and his mother also attends English as a Second Language (ESL) classes.

“I’ve learned a lot of math and English here, and I am teaching my mom how to speak English,” Hernandez said. “I’ve also learned a lot about reading and punctuation. It feels good that the things I am learning are helping me in school and my mom as well.”

The Connect Center is a great place to learn a variety of subjects, Hernandez said.

“The people here are nice, and they’re very helpful,” he said. “They will do their best to help you in any way they can. My mom is grateful that I can teach her this stuff so she can understand more people around here.”

Anthony Britt, the administrator for the Connect Center and the mission pastor at First Baptist Church in Madison, said the inspiration for the program struck after he saw students struggling from a lack of classroom time during the COVID pandemic.

“When I saw students having trouble due to being at home instead of in the classroom, I thought and prayed about how we could assist them and their families in the area,” Britt said. “We wanted to partner locally to make a difference in the local community.”

The Canton Connect Center functions as an after school tutoring program for children from second to fifth grade during the day, and in the evenings, it is used to teach “English as a Second Language” (ESL) classes for Hispanic families looking to master English.

“We’ve done a lot of mission trips to South America and engaged with many Hispanic families in the mission field,” Britt said. “This made us want to do more missions work, but we wanted to do it locally. Coming to another country and not knowing the language there is intimidating, and we want to help them understand the language and culture here.”

After praying and searching for a location to start the Connect Center, a former daycare on 514 West Fulton Street in Canton caught Britt’s eye.

He said he worked out a lease with the owner, Dr. Linda Johnson Dunigan, and in February 2021, the Connect Center had an official home. They began tutoring students in September 2021.

Since then, Britt and his staff has helped students with their homework, projects, and studies and assisted Hispanic families with becoming English fluent.

“During the day, it’s a tutoring center for the kids on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., and on Tuesday nights, we teach the ESL classes from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.,” Britt said. “We also have additional ESL classes on Wednesday mornings from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.” 

Britt said seeing the students want to learn and do better in their studies is the best part of the program.

He said watching the students enjoy what they’re learning and even getting disappointed when they have to go home for the day is rewarding for him. He noted they come regularly and evaluate their strengths and weaknesses. Britt and his staff then try to help strengthen those weaknesses in their studies and projects.

“When we first started the Connect Center, we could tell the students were understanding the material and having fun,” Britt said. “Seeing kids want to learn and have fun with this stuff has been great for me, my volunteers, and staff.”

“We have a lot of retired teachers as our tutors, so they understand the education,” he said. “They make it fun for the kids and it’s an environment they enjoy coming to. Seeing the people at ESL and them bridging the gap of learning English is something I love.”

Robin Moody, director of the ESL classes at the Connect Center, lives in Madison County and has taught ESL classes most of her life.

“It’s exciting to watch my students’ eyes light up when they get a phrase or understand a word, and it clicks with them,” Moody said. “It’s fun to see them catch on to a southern phrase.”

Moody joined the Canton Connect Center when they started last summer. She said the most challenging part of teaching is finding what her students need to learn and the correct lesson.

“We want to reach into the community to help not only Hispanic families, but all cultures that want to learn the language,” Moody said. “We aim to help students who need assistance building their skills with reading, math, and more.” 

To learn more about the Canton Connect Center, visit their website at www.cantonconnectcenter.org or call them at (601) 667-3476.





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