English in Action: The English-Speaking Union

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ARNIC Graduation and ESU Founder's Award Ceremony

On June 1, the English-Speaking Union Andrew Romay New Immigrant Center celebrated the accomplishments of its members with a graduation ceremony hosted by the Open Society Foundations, financial supporters of the program, at their offices in New York City.

The Andrew Romay New Immigrant Center (ARNIC), named for the program's key visionary and supporter, Andrew Romay, helps recently arrived immigrants improve their English through free ESL classes and conversation sessions and acquire cultural fluency through field trips, workshops and networking opportunities. Launched in January 2013, the ARNIC Program has served more than 800 new Americans.

Author, lecturer and ARNIC alum, Amara Lakhous, presented this year's keynote speech. Mr. Lakhous wrote the award-winning novel, Clash of Civilizations Over an Elevator in Piazza Vittorio. Drawing on his own experience as an immigrant both in Italy and in the United States, he shared tips on adjusting to life in a new country and language learning. Above all, he advised graduates to avoid negative people when pursuing their dreams.

Two of this year's graduates, Irina Alekseeva and Yoan Corvo Duarte, spoke about their experience in the program. Mr. Duarte, originally from Cuba, gave special praise to his conversation tutor, Claudia, noting how she, "believes, pushes and dedicates her time to supporting {him}." Ms. Alekseeva, who is from Russia, highlighted the professional skills of her teachers and her time acting with the ESU players.

Also enriching this year's program was a speech by Jenifer Rajkumar, New York Department of State Director of Immigrant Affairs.  Herself the daughter of immigrants, she voiced her admiration for the ARNIC members' pursuit of new lives in America.

A special feature of this year's ceremony was the presentation of the English-Speaking Union Founder's Award to Marie Dora "Doe" Thornburg and Andrew Romay (posthumously accepted by personal friend of Andrew and English in Action tutor, Evi Blaikie). The Founder's Award recognizes individuals who exemplify the primary interests of Sir Evelyn Wrench, the founder of the English-Speaking Union, namely to cultivate international understanding and friendship and to promote the mastery and extended use of the English language. Doe Thornburg has dedicated her personal and professional life to advancing global understanding through English. She guided this work at the ESU for more than 50 years and was most influential in bringing the ARNIC program within the ESU.

Andrew Romay survived incarceration in Mauthausen Concentration Camp and a Hungarian communist jail (Kistarcsa) before coming in 1956 as a refugee to the US. While he gained success here in business, Andrew remained acutely aware of the struggles new immigrants face and he dedicated his later life to helping those new immigrants by founding and funding the ESU Immigrant Center that now bears his name. 

Evie Blaikie receiving the Founder's Award on behalf of Andrew Romay

To see more photos from the event, please click here. 

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