LA CROSSE, Wis. - Adjusting to a new way of life is difficult, especially when that new life means you'll be speaking a different language. According to a recent study, Minnesota and Wisconsin rank near the bottom of states for having integrated Hispanics.
Vernoica Jovel knew little English before leaving El Salvador to come work in the United States seven years ago.
"It was hard," she said. "Before I can talk nothing English, and it was hard when you have to go to the supermarket, well, any place out of the house, it was hard."
A WalletHub study ranks Wisconsin 45th of all states in how well Hispanics have been able to adapt to mainstream American Culture, and neighboring Minnesota comes in at 48.
Volunteers at the Centro Latino, inside the First Baptist Church on West Avenue and Main Street, are doing what they can to help our Hispanic population.
"We don't have a great many, but it's good because we can help," coordinator and volunteer at the center Gloria Servais said. "More than anything now, we are resource people. Somebody comes in with a problem, and we put our heads together to see how they can be helped."
"Our lessons for English as second language are free, so people are interested in that, and that's why they come, and the hospitality," coordinator Sister Antona Schedlo said. "They just come because they want to talk."
"My main goal is here to help those that come in with their English skills, but also help them out in the community," Servais said.
Jovel has made strides in her English speaking, and that's in part thanks to regular visits at the center. She no longer needs a translator when speaking to her children's teachers.
"This place really good because, like me, they can help another people to improve English," she said. "It basically means opportunity."
Centro Latino will be celebrating its two year anniversary next week.
They have open hours during the week and say anybody is welcome. More information can be found on their Facebook page.
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