Three brothers from Saudi Arabia had each other to lean on while learning English through Wright State’s Learning English for Academic and Professional Purposes (LEAP) program.
Several family members, including a husband and wife, father and daughter and sibling pair, are currently studying in the LEAP program.
For brothers Mohammed Alkhiari, Faisal Alkhiari and Naif Alkhiari, English was a challenge, but one they all worked hard to overcome.
“They all came here with hardly any English and started in our beginning levels, pre-LEAP and level one,” said Jeannette Horwitz, director of LEAP. “All three worked extremely hard while in the program.”
The LEAP program provides full-time intensive English instruction and offers non-native speakers the linguistic, academic and social skills to be successful in an American university. The program offers five levels, limited to 10 to 12 students per class. Several different countries are represented in the program.
“It’s a good place to learn English,” said Faisal, who graduated from LEAP last summer and is now majoring in supply chain management.
“I only knew ‘yes’ and ‘no’ when I came here,” he added. “Now we have another language, and we can go back and teach other students.” He plans to stay in the U.S. to pursue his master’s and doctorate degrees.
“The LEAP program helped us to work with a group, how to work as an individual and how to make a presentation,” said Naif, a senior majoring in biomedical engineering who wants to design prosthetics. “Now we can talk in front of people, from the presentations. So they help us with all the skills. They taught us how to read faster.”
LEAP not only teaches non-native English speakers linguistics, the program also instructs students how to communicate effectively through helpful strategies, said Naif.
Students who earn the TOEFL waiver do not need to submit an English language test score but need to meet the English language requirement by completing LEAP successfully, said Horwitz. When students reach LEAP level 4, they are able to take one academic course outside the program. Students who earn the TOEFL waiver by completing level 4 do not need to submit an English language test score for admission to Wright State, said Horwitz.
As the youngest of 20 siblings, Mohammed, Faisal and Naif earned high GPAs and perfect attendance certificates while in LEAP. They not only faced academic challenges, but also confronted cultural differences such as taking classes with women, arriving on time and learning personal space.
All three spoke highly of their experiences in the program, specifically for taking the students on trips around Dayton, being able to meet with American conversation partners, and hosting cultural hours during which international students bring an ethnic dish from their home country.
The brothers also praised LEAP staff and faculty for their support and assistance. They listed Horwitz; Catherine Crowley, LEAP senior lecturer; Tom Fenton, instructor and assistant director of LEAP; and Mailinh Nguyen, LEAP instructor, for going beyond the norm of staff responsibilities.
“Jeannette is always helping us,” said Mohammed, a junior majoring in supply chain management. “It’s not just about a teacher or director. For us she is like our family, our mom. She always helps with everything. When we went back to Saudi, she kept in touch with us … she gave a call to my mom. … I would like to thank Tom because he especially taught me how to write.”
“I’m proud of my brothers and myself,” said Naif. “And all the LEAP staff help us when we need help with cars or apartment things.”
The brothers may have spoken highly of LEAP, but Horwitz recognized them for their personalities and work ethic.
“They are a wonderful group of young men, friendly, outgoing, hardworking,” she said. “They all have a great sense of humor too. No matter how challenging their courses were or how frustrating it was for them not to understand English when they first arrived, they always smiled and kept at it. They never gave up. I really admire that in all three of them.”
“We thank Wright State for helping us,” said Mohammed. “We love Wright State.”