El Jebel-based English in Action gets creative in troubled times


What: English In Action Virtual Summer Benefit

Where: online everywhere

When: Thursday, 6 -7 pm Mountain Time

Tickets: From $100

Donate to participate at: or 970.963.9200

When English in Action was forced by the coronavirus to switch to a virtual presentation for its summer benefit this month, it still figured out a way to pack an inspirational punch.

The Roaring Fork Valley nonprofit organization’s annual event Thursday night will feature two speakers equipped to provide special insights into major issues of the day.

Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum, will address immigration issues at a time when COVID-19 is hitting that community particularly hard. In addition, the U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to rule in coming weeks if 700,000 Dreamers in the country can be deported. The Trump administration wants to shut down a program that shields the young immigrants from deportation and allows them to work in the U.S.

“He’s very realistic about the voices that try to divide us on immigration,” said Lara Beaulieu, executive director of English in Action.

Noorani also has a very hopeful message about the value of immigrants and immigration, she added. That message “really speaks to our mission,” she said.

In addition to Noorani, former U.S. Secretary of State and frequent Aspen visitor Madeleine Albright will bring her perspective on world and domestic issues to the benefit. Albright is an honorary member of the nonprofit’s board of directors and was a featured speaker at the prior summer benefits.

Thursday’s online event will be from 6 to 7 p.m.

English in Action was forced to retool every aspect of its operations this spring because of the coronavirus and the need for social distancing. Not only did the summer benefit have to be switched to online out of necessity, the nonprofit also had to figure out how to continue to bring together students and tutors, which is central to its core mission. English in Action matches adults who want to improve their English with volunteer tutors one-on-one and in small groups.

Their work continues, thus so does the need for ongoing support, Beaulieu said. The summer benefit is a major fundraiser along with the annual Fiesta de Tamales.

English in Action program coordinator Rachel Schmidt said many of the immigrants it works with are employees in the restaurant and lodging industries that were decimated by the economic shutdown after stay-at-home orders were issued in March and continued through April. English in Action found that many of the people it works with had limited information about staying healthy and financial resources available to aid the newly unemployed. In some cases, the language barrier provided another hurdle to accessing aid from governments and nonprofit organizations, Schmidt said.

English in Action rushed to fill that void of information.

It’s also working to bring tutors and students back together via virtual education. More than 90% of students and teachers have communicated in some form since the pandemic, Beaulieu said. A growing number of them are meeting regularly as time goes on, though access to technology is a hurdle in some cases. They don’t want the pandemic to wipe out dreams of immigrants to learn English.

The organization itself was well positioned financially at the time of the unexpected downturn, Beaulieu said. The bigger challenge will be riding out the next year until conditions presumably return closer to normal.

“Every organization, every industry has been forced to make significant changes,” Beaulieu said.


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