Our Story

Our Story

updated bus picThe Idea

 “We will surely get to our destination if we join hands.” ― Aung San Suu Kyi


In the fall of 2011, a group of community leaders who work to serve refugees in Nashville, TN came together to discuss the top barriers that refugees face in attending ESL classes. The lack of transportation surfaced at #1 on the list.

Angie Harris, the ESL/TESL director at TFLI, was present at the meeting and had an idea. Modeled after a bookmobile, Harris imagined a classroom on wheels that would travel to the apartment complexes where refugees live, eliminating the need for transportation to and from class. Harris mentioned the concept to then volunteer, Leah Hashinger, and from that point on, the two women passionately worked towards making Harris’ vision a reality.

After establishing support from the community and surveying refugees on their need for ESL classes, Harris and Hashinger went to work on getting their program funded. The first step was funding for operational expenses, which allowed the team of two to hire another full time employee, Ashley Ekers. With Ekers on board, ESL to Go was able to begin offering English classes in existing classroom spaces that lacked instructors, as well converting vacant spaces (or case worker’s living rooms!) into functional classroom spaces.

While teaching classes and designing curriculum, the team was also busy raising the money needed to purchase the mobile classroom. With over $14,000 in personal contributions and generous grants awarded by the Frist Foundation, the Martin Foundation, and the Memorial Foundation, TFLI was able to purchase Tennessee’s first mobile ESL classroom.

The 34 foot truck is specially designed and engineered to be a fully-functioning ESL classroom on wheels. The unit comfortably seats ten students and includes a teacher’s work space and cabinetry for storage, as well as amenities such as white boards and a projector.

ESL to Go is successful because of our commitment to community collaboration. By working with Resettlement Agencies and other organizations that serve newcomers, we are able to collectively make ESL class offerings more available to refugees throughout Middle-Tennessee.

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