September 16, 2021

The Office for New Americans Announces New English Learning Program to Help Immigrants with Language Proficiency

The Office for New Americans Announces New English Learning Program to Help Immigrants with Language Proficiency

Over $1.2 Million Dedicated to Help Speakers of Other Languages to Learn English

September 10-19th Marks Welcoming Week and September 15 is the Start of Hispanic Heritage Month

Governor Issues Proclamations Welcoming the Important Contributions of New Americans Across the State

In recognition of Welcoming Week and the start of Hispanic Heritage Month, the New York State Office for New Americans (ONA) today announced over $1.2 million in funding to support a new English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) program to help immigrant New Yorkers learn English. The program, which will offer both in-person and virtual learning opportunities, will help immigrants across the state with English proficiency.

This announcement comes in the middle of Welcoming Week, which runs from September 10-19, and at the kickoff of Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from September 15-October 15, 2021. In honor of these celebrations, Governor Kathy Hochul issued proclamations welcoming the important contributions of New Americans across New York State.

“New Americans contribute greatly to the State’s dynamic cultural and economic environment, but their participation in our society may be abated due to limited language proficiency,” said Secretary of State Rossana Rosado. “We celebrate Welcoming Week and Hispanic Heritage Month by recognizing the great contributions of New Americans and offering opportunities such as the English for Speakers of Other Languages program. This resource will help New Americans become part of the New York diaspora by providing the necessary tools to contribute to our great state.”

This new ONA initiative offers a stand-alone ESOL program that combines English language training with a workforce development component, to prepare participants for employment in New York State.  To directly address the needs identified in the communities ONA serves, this program will provide regular ESOL classes combined with individual workforce support and innovative technologies including Cell-Ed.  Each Opportunity Center-ESOL will hire an experienced ESOL teacher to provide instruction to low-income immigrants as well as provide assistance to participants with resume building, interview techniques, and employment opportunities. The ONA Opportunity Centers-ESOL will also provide workforce development workshops for the community.

Starting October 1, the ONA Opportunity Centers-ESOL will offer the ESOL program to assist low-income immigrants and refugees with opportunities to learn English as well as provide information to help navigate their communities. ONA has made awards to 16 community-based partner organizations located in the following counties in New York State to conduct this work:

  • Bronx - Catholic Charities Community Service, Archdiocese of NY
  • Erie - Journey's End
  • Kings - Haitian Americans United for Progress
  • Kings - Arab American Association of NY
  • Monroe - Action for a Better Community
  • Nassau - Central American Refugee Center
  • New York - International Rescue Committee
  • New York - Chinatown Manpower Inc.
  • Oneida - The Center 
  • Onondaga - Catholic Charities Onondaga
  • Orange - Catholic Charities Community Service, Archdiocese of NY
  • Queens - Chinese American Planning Council
  • Queens - Haitian Americans United for Progress
  • Queens - Korean Community Services of Metropolitan NY
  • Suffolk - Central American Refugee Center
  • Westchester – Neighbors Link

Anyone who is a resident of New York State and meets the income eligibility requirements of the program is eligible to receive these services, regardless of where in the state they live.  Programming will be provided both in-person and remotely. Cell-Ed is also available to any resident of New York State as additional free programming providing remote English language learning on the go.

Under this three-year grant, each ONA Opportunity Center-ESOL will provide services, free of charge to clients, including English language training, workforce assistance and referrals to the ONA hotline.

Central American Refugee Center in New York Executive Director Elise de Castillo said, "Across New York state, a lack of access to high-quality, free English language instruction keeps new Americans marginalized. The New York State Office for New Americans' ESOL Opportunity Centers will break down these barriers, helping immigrant New Yorkers acquire the language skills they need to become full civic, social and economic participants in our state and pave the way for future generations of new Americans."   

The Center in Utica Executive Director Shelly Callahan said, “The Center is so pleased to be selected as an ONA Opportunity Center that offers the ESOL program, which aligns with our strategic plan to expand initiatives that support refugees, immigrants, and all newcomers to the City of Utica and Mohawk Valley, recognizing that human capital has been the key to enhancing both community revitalization and economic development in the region.                                                                                                                                 

There are about one million New Yorkers who have Limited English Proficiency (“LEP”). Providing access to ESOL training throughout the state is vital to facilitate the full participation of New Americans in New York’s social, civic, and economic life. ESOL training under this program will be offered for adult education purposes only (18 and older).

This program is supported with approximately $1,292,000 through Federal Community Service Block Grant funding and is open to any immigrant with a household income at or below 125% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines.

This program is supported by the U.S. Administration for Children and Families (ACF), the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $1,292,000 with 100 percent funded by ACF/HHS. The contents are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACF/HHS, or the U.S. Government. For more information, please visit the ACF website, Administrative and National Policy Requirements.

The New York State Office for New Americans, founded in 2012, is the nation’s first statutorily created immigrant services office. ONA assists all New Americans with accessing and navigating a variety of free services and support through its statewide network of community-based providers.

Cell-Ed is a first-in-the nation program that provides immigrants and refugees with free English-language training through any mobile phone, tablet, or computer. ONA is partnered with Cell-Ed in New York State to provide English language instruction for all language levels on the go, anywhere, anytime on a mobile device.

For any immigrant in need of assistance, or to connect with ONA’s programs, including Cell-Ed, call the New Americans Hotline at 1-800-566-7636 9:00am to 8:00pm, Monday through Friday. All calls are confidential. Assistance is available in over 200 languages. For more information, visit or follow ONA on Twitter at @NYSNewAmericans or Facebook at