December 21, 2005 — Local adult Latinos are receiving a unique Christmas present this year – the gift of English language. For months, they have been meeting Mondays through Thursdays for two hours each night for advanced community English as a Second Language classes sponsored by Zions Bank Su Banco in partnership with the University of Utah’s English Language Institute (ELI).
On Thursday, December 22, at 7 p.m., 25 students will graduate from the advanced English as a Second Language (ESL) program, which makes it possible for them to aspire to professional occupations or to university education. The 40-minute commencement ceremony will take place at Zions Bank Su Banco, 1635 S. Redwood Rd. in Salt Lake City, where the students have been meeting for classes. Relatives of the graduates as well as students in another ELI class will be in attendance.
Students participating in the Su Banco ELI initiative received full scholarships for the program, funded by a one-to-one match between Zions Bank and the University of Utah.
The graduation ceremony will be officiated by University of Utah Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs, David W. Pershing. It will feature speeches by ELI instructor Rick Van de Graaf and graduating student Alma Corrales.
A native of Mexico and divorced with five children, Corrales has been transformed by her experience in the ELI program. “This course helped me to discover a new woman that was hidden in my interior. I didn’t know how much value I have as a student learner. I feel so proud of having this chance to teach my five children a lesson, that it is never too late to start a new life, a new way of living. I want them to feel proud of their Mama,” she said.
Additional commencement speakers will include Zions Bank President and CEO Scott Anderson and Dr. Theresa A. Martinez, Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies for Outreach at the University of Utah and a member of the Board of Directors of Zions Bank.
While several ESL classes offered for adults in the Salt Lake Valley provide basic level “survival English,” the Zions Bank-ELI program provides advanced English language training for Spanish-speaking Latinos who are graduates of ESL programs in the state of Utah and who are seeking to enhance their English language skills and employment opportunities. The English Language Institute at the University of Utah is part of the division of Continuing Education, offering seven levels of English language proficiency for ESL students. ELI is ranked in the top twenty language institutes in the United States.
“Zions Bank congratulates the students graduating from Su Banco’s educational cohort program, and we wish them the best as they pursue professional careers,” Anderson said. “We believe this program and our scholarships will contribute to greater economic opportunities for Spanish-speaking Latinos, increasing the overall wealth in the Utah Latino community.”
Dr. Martinez said the scholarship program will have a lasting impact on Latino families. “Zions Bank’s support for advanced English language training will impact Spanish-speaking Latinos, enabling them to seek better economic opportunities for their families. Moreover, their children, who will later make up a major part of Utah’s labor force, will benefit immeasurably from their parents’ enhanced language skills creating a cycle of learning and growth.”
Based on the early success of the Salt Lake-area cohort, Zions Bank is funding scholarships for adult Latinos taking basic-level ESL classes at Snow College, Dixie State College, and Boise State University during the 2005-2006 academic year.
Dr. Martinez also said that providing a solid educational background for Latinos was in Utah’s best interest. “As we face this new century of Latino population growth both in Utah and the nation, it is essential that forward thinking people consider this growth and our own labor force needs as we help to nurture professionally skilled Latinos in the state.”
“Zions is proud to engage in outreach programs like the ELI scholarship, because we strive to provide creative financial solutions to meet the needs of the Hispanic community,” said Sylvia Haro, Zions Bank’s senior vice president of community outreach.
Zions Bank is Utah’s oldest financial institution, and is the only local bank with a statewide distribution of branches, operating 111 full-service branches throughout Utah. Zions Bank also operates 23 full-service branches in Idaho, and nearly 200 ATMs throughout Utah and Idaho. In addition to a wide range of traditional banking services, Zions offers a comprehensive array of investment, mortgage, and insurance services, and has a network of loan origination offices for small businesses nationwide. The company is also a leader in providing electronic banking services, including electronic municipal bond trading. Founded in 1873, Zions has been serving the communities of the Intermountain West for more than 130 years. Additional information on Zions Bank is available at www.zionsbank.com.