Laid-off Morrell workers brush up on English - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

Laid-off Morrell workers brush up on English

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SOUTH SIOUX CITY, Neb. (KTIV) -- Learning a second language can be tough, but some former John Morrell workers are hoping that it will help them find a job.

The John Morrell meat packing plant in Sioux City has been sitting quiet for over a month now, but some of the former workers are very busy investing in their own futures. They have headed back to school at Northeast Community College in South Sioux City. It's a program just for former John Morrell workers, specifically for those who want to learn better English.

"We knew that there was going to be a large number of John Morrell employees that were going to be laid off and we wanted to put something together for them," said Maria Gonzalez, Northeast Community College Recruiter.

About 170 students are part of the May immersion program, which is 70 hours in the classroom spread over two weeks.

"I'm here first to see what I know about English, and after that to learn about computers, how to look for jobs, better jobs," said Lourdes Venegas.

"We are learning about grammar, spelling, writing, pronunciation and sounds. And a little bit of math," said Irma Vacquez.

"I want to learn something different that what I did at John Morrell," said Martha Guterrez.

Most of the students tuition has been covered by a $10,000 donation from Pepsi-Cola of Siouxland and the Pepsi Refresh Project.

The school says, the students have given great feedback and can't wait to start their next classes.

"They have really enjoyed their teachers. They have gotten more comfortable with their speaking skills and I heard from a lot of them, just knowing them in the community, how in the beginning they were really nervous about coming to college and how that would be, and through these two weeks how much more comfortable they feel. How they are adapting and now getting really interested in starting their next classes which will be in June," said Gonzalez.

Most of the students are seeking degrees. When they're finished with their English classes, they'll take classes in areas such as welding, truck driving and teaching.

The program's last day is Friday.

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