Goodwill Manasota provides ESOL classes for its employees

Team members enjoy weekly English classes – on the clock and at no cost to them – taught by instructors from the Literacy Council of Sarasota

Published Tuesday, September 22, 2020

SARASOTA, FL – In an effort to help its employees to achieve work and life success, Goodwill Manasota is offering virtual ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) classes each week for team members whose primary language is not English. These classes, which are taught by instructors provided by the Literacy Council of Sarasota, are provided while employees are on the clock, at no cost to them.

Goodwill GoodPartner Coach Pamela Bavo reports that, this year, Goodwill Manasota employs 73 team members who do not speak English as their primary language. She notes that many employees with limited English language proficiency come from diverse work histories – including engineers, pharmacists or veterinarians – who can’t pursue those careers here because of the language barrier or because their credentials don’t meet U.S. requirements.

“We want to assist our non-English speakers in improving their language skills so that they can enroll in our training programs, get promotions at Goodwill and/or gain the skills and certifications they need to re-enter the industry they worked in before coming to the U.S.,” Bavo said.

Benefits Bavo has seen for participating team members include greater ease in navigating the workplace, bolstering teamwork, and strengthening the positive workplace culture as well as helping the employee to communicate with important figures in theirs and their children’s lives. At any given time, 4-10 employees are engaged in the ESOL classes.

Team member Yanet Sosa notes that the classes have been enormously helpful not only in helping her to communicate with her daughter – who speaks primarily English – but also her daughter’s teachers. This helps her to stay better engaged with and empowered to act upon her child’s life.

Susan Bergstrom of the Literacy Council reports that one in five adults in Sarasota County (ages 16-74) lack basic literacy skills; non-English speakers account for about 20% of the local population. She says the majority of the Literacy Council’s adult learners have a college degree from their native country.

“The predominant reasons adults in the U.S. want to learn English are to get a job or a better job as well as to help their children with their homework and be able to converse with their children’s teachers,” Bergstrom said. “They understand that, in order to thrive in the U.S., learning English is a necessity.”

Bergstrom notes that the pandemic has caused all of the Literacy Council’s classes to be moved online and that this has actually had a positive effect. “Offering services online has created a tremendous convenience for many of our adult language learners, who have proven to be both receptive and highly adaptive to online learning,” she said.

For Bavo, one of the biggest benefits of Goodwill’s on-the-clock training is that it showcases the organization’s commitment to invest in its team. “It shows workers they are valued and that their success is important to Goodwill,” she said.

Visit for more about Goodwill’s programs and services.

1. Instructor June Battersby (onscreen) reviews an exercise with Goodwill employees (from l-r) Yanet Sosa, Taimy Leon, Umiliana Rios and Samuel Bonilla-Cotto
2. Goodwill team members (in vests, from l-r) Umiliana Rios, Yanet Sosa, Samuel Bonilla-Cotto and Taimy Leon are students in the ESOL class; in the background are GoodPartner Coaches Diana Olivieri and Pam Bavo

About Goodwill Manasota
Goodwill Manasota is an industry-leading 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization that changes lives through the power of work. With philanthropic donations and revenue generated by the sales of donated goods, Goodwill is able to assist people with disabilities, veterans, seniors, and those with other barriers to employment by providing jobs, job skills training, and free career services. For more information or for a listing of locations, visit or call 941-355-2721.