Empowering Team Members

Category: Community Life

Lifespace Communities is committed to offering team members the tools and support necessary to succeed both inside and outside of work. It’s why the organization offers various team-member-focused engagement programs – often with strong resident involvement – at each of its 12 communities. A recent standout is this past spring’s English as a Second Language (ESL) program at Beacon Hill in Lombard, Illinois, which was designed to improve verbal and written communication skills.

“Many team members are eager to brush up on their language skills but often have time constraints because of family, work and other commitments,” explained Teresa Novelli, the health center administrator at the community who worked closely with residents to develop the free, 10-week course. “We wanted to make accessing language curriculum much easier.”

Novelli teamed up with 19 residents to see this vision through. A few of them were former teachers and ESL practitioners, but most were simply moved to action by a desire to do good. The group developed a curriculum, and Beacon Hill purchased books, which proved to be a success with 19 team members who voluntarily enrolled in the course. Flexibility was a key part of the program, so instructors scheduled lessons according to their students’ availability.

Plant operations team member Almer Cuko, who moved to the U.S. from Albania in 2017, found the experience to be invaluable as he settles into a new country. “I could speak some English before, but the practice helped me a lot,” he said. “My English is much better now than when I first moved here, and I wish the program was a little longer. It was great.”

In the end, the students’ hard work and dedication were rewarded with residents hosting a special graduation ceremony to recognize their efforts. Friends and family attended the event during which team members received diplomas and special words of encouragement from their instructors.

“The event gave me chills,” said resident instructor Gloria Carter, a first-generation American whose parents immigrated to the U.S. from Italy. She’s also a former preschool teacher with ESL experience. “Beyond just learning English, this exposed us to different cultures and different ways of looking at things. The students had more to give me than I had to give them, and I’m thankful for the friendships we formed.”

Novelli agreed. “This went above and beyond our expectations,” she said, alluding to plans of making the ESL program a yearly endeavor. “It not only satisfied the need to improve communication skills; it also developed strong relationships. It’s truly a testament to the wonderful culture at our community.”

[In the photo: Team members, residents and guests gather at Beacon Hill’s ESL graduation ceremony.]