CH-UH and Tri-C partnership supports adult learners

English Conversation Partners Albertine Laleye (foreground) and Louise Abrams use everyday tasks, such as banking, as an opportunity to practice Laleye’s language skills.

In addition to educating Heights students from pre-K through grade 12, the CH-UH school district also supports adult learners through a partnership with Cuyahoga Community College’s (Tri-C) Aspire/Options program, which houses its hub in the district's Delisle building. 

Salome Harris is the coordinator of Tri-C’s eastside Aspire sites. The program provides non-collegiate community-based adult learning, free of charge.

Courses include literacy and math skills, field training, high school equivalency diplomas, and English language for new learners. From that hub at Delisle, Harris coordinates services from East Cleveland to Willowick, and in between. 

Cleveland Heights program locations have included Heights High, Delisle itself, and the Noble Neighborhood Library. The Lee Road Library is in the process of becoming an English class site, as well.

“We have over 30 years of partnership with the CH-UH school district and the Heights Libraries,” said Harris. 

That partnership is essential to students such as Albertine Laleye, who immigrated to the United States from Benin in 2017.

While living with her daughter in University Heights, Laleye started classes with instructor Alisa Warshay, who has been teaching in the program since 2018. Laleye attended classes, which meet for 2.5 hours twice a week, for about one year. As her English improved, she was able to secure a better job—which ironically made it hard to get to class. Warshay helped her match to an online class, which was a big help. 

Realizing that her students needed English practice outside of the classroom, Warshay created an English Conversation Partners program, wherein she matches students with community volunteers for twice monthly conversational practice. 

Laleye was matched with Louise Abrams. The pair would sometimes undertake intentional lessons; other times they would go into the community and talk about what’s around them.

“We focus on problem-solving," said Abrams, "going to concerts, the library, and the botanic garden together. We have pleasant conversations while doing something enjoyable.”

The “work” quickly became friendship and moral support, and included going to the bank together to sort out an issue. Abrams’s husband was recruited to help Laleye learn to drive. The relationship is mutually gratifying, because it is anchored in friendship.

Laleye encourages people from other countries to take a class through this program. “It helps a lot with work," Laleye explained. "And work has helped a lot with learning English.”

Entering her third year of studies, Laleye now will be taking courses directly at Tri-C, and is excited about moving from a high school to a college campus.

Harris explains that community-embedded programming helps people get connected.

For example, when an immigrant family enrolls its children in CH-UH schools, Tri-C’s offerings are accessible for the parents, too.

Building community relationships is helpful to someone who is settling into American life. There is a sense of safety and familiarity being in schools and libraries. 

In a typical year, said Harris, the Heights-based hub serves more than 1,000 students on Cleveland's east side.

"It was easy to find the classes," said Laleye. “I looked on my phone, and I made an appointment to attend an orientation.” 

Those interested in high school equivalency or English language classes can book an August orientation date to register for fall classes, which begin Aug. 29. Visit and click on the orange button that says “Register Here.” 

Anyone interested in becoming an English Conversation Partner volunteer should contact Alisa Warshay at 

Shari Nacson

Mostly a mom, Shari Nacson, is a mother, freelance editor, social worker, and nonprofit consultant who has lived in Cleveland Heights for 22 years. More than anything, Nacson is inspired by kids and adults who build connection through kindness.

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Volume 15, Issue 8, Posted 9:20 PM, 07.27.2022