Friendship Community Project was formed in the summer of 2015 by five former Kirkwood Community College ELL instructors at a time when large numbers of immigrants in the Iowa City area were overwhelming existing English language programs for adult learners.
The program consists of 4 levels of formal English-language instruction presented in the context of life-skills to help students navigate in their new community. A help desk is available during class time to assist students with problems large and small, from filling out applications to finding local resources, to getting help going to the emergency room.
Two conversation groups meet on a regular basis for English practice outside of class, and a partnership with the University of Iowa Conversation Center and MERGE has resulted in Community Conversation, one-on-one conversation practice with trained University of Iowa students downtown at MERGE.
The Friendship Pals program pairs individual students and sometimes small groups with an English-speaking community volunteer for socializing and conversation practice on a regular basis.
One-on-one Basic Computer Skills tutoring meets after class for interested students and has been very popular.
Other activities and projects in the past have included collaboration with the Iowa City Community School District and Neighborhood Centers of Johnson County to provide evening classes especially geared toward English learning parents of children in Iowa City schools, a book club for our advanced students, a summer Walk & Talk program combining walking at Terry Trueblood Recreation Area with informal English conversation, and presentations for students on useful topics: A medical student taught about health topics, bank volunteers have taught about establishing a credit history and safeguarding financial information, and a police department liaison has taught students about avoiding scams and how to respond to a police traffic stop. The Domestic Violence Intervention Program and Center for Worker Justice have given presentations to our students, and an Affordable Care Act navigator worked with students wishing to learn about and sign up for health insurance.
Friendship Community Project has averaged more than 130 students a year in its programs and provides immigrants and refugees in the Iowa City area with a support system as well as instruction. As one former student put it, “We’re family–The MFP family!”