About Welcoming the Stranger
Welcoming the Stranger is an educational non-profit that offers free classes in English as a Second Language (ESL), computer skills, and United States citizenship exam preparation to adult immigrants and refugees in the Philadelphia metro region.
Founded in 1999, Welcoming the Stranger has taught over 4,000 students from 104 different countries. Welcoming the Stranger is a fully independent, IRS-approved, 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation. Financial support comes from individuals, places of worship, and local businesses, as well as grants from area foundations, which allows all programs to remain free of charge for students.
Using paid teachers and about 100 volunteers each term, we offer about fifteen to twenty classes each trimester. Classes are held both day and evening. Over the past several years, classes have been offered in Bensalem, Doylestown, Hatboro, Harleysville, Lambertville, Langhorne, Levittown, Morrisville, Newtown, Northeast Philadelphia, Southampton, and Warminster. Classes are often located in churches and community centers. Each year Welcoming the Stranger offers three 12-week terms of classes. Registrations for each term number approximately 300 students. There is no cost to the student for any of the classes.
Welcoming the Stranger offers English, Citizenship Preparation, and Computer Skills classes. All of our classes are free to all of our students. Students may enroll in more than one class at a time. Classes are offered to all students regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, religion, or national origin.
Our computer classes serve mostly older adults who are learning basic computer skills. We help them with basic skills such as how to access email and the internet, to more advanced skills in Microsoft Office Suite using Word, Excel, and other programs.
Classes in English are provided to beginner, intermediate, and advanced students, covering topics such as reading, writing, speaking and listening, as well as American cultural traditions and etiquette. An instructor is aided by several volunteers so that student to teacher ratio is 2:1; and students are given ample opportunity for direct interaction with their instructors and are able to work on different leveled lessons in small groups. Our English classes are highly personalized and curriculum is adjusted to meet the needs and goals of the current students in the course.
U.S. Citizenship Preparation:
In our Citizenship Preparation classes, students study the questions for the U.S. Naturalization Exam, as well as practice their English skills and practice test questions. We have a better than 99% success rate with students who take the naturalization exam, including more than 90% who pass on their first try.
Welcoming the Stranger is a global family that starts in our classes and extends beyond academic learning. We offer valuable resources to our students to help them establish life in a new country. By working with over 50 partner organizations in the community, we provide students with connections to jobs, childcare, healthcare, housing, food security, and social outlets so that our immigrant families can build a support system here in America.
Welcoming the Stranger offers multiple workshops each term on topics such as: Nutrition, Financial Literacy, Voter Registration, Know Your Rights, Talking to the Doctor, Legal Clinics, and more.
Many workshops are held within our classes to provide convenient access to students, though outside immigrant attendees are welcome. Some workshops are conducted by WTS staff and others are presented by our community partners.
We believe that building a community and developing support systems can make all the difference in adjusting to live in a new country. Our organization strives to build connections - both connecting people to resources and connecting students to each other and to native English speaking Americans. Our students have formed mother’s groups, book clubs, and social clubs with each other and with our American volunteers. We have run mentoring programs connecting immigrants with Americans for social and cultural interaction, and long-lasting friendships have developed from these personal interactions. Our volunteers and staff have advocated for our students, attending serious meetings like parent/teacher conferences and immigration court visits with students, as well as forming life-long connections that result in fun gatherings like attending our students’ children’s birthday parties, participating in students’ weddings, or becoming godparents to a students’ new baby.
Our Mission Statement:
Welcoming the Stranger provides free educational opportunities to immigrants and refugees in the United States in response to Jesus' instruction to his disciples that they should always welcome the strangers in their midst (Matt. 25:35). We provide free classes in English, computer skills, and citizenship preparation to adult immigrants and refugees in Lower Bucks County and Northeast Philadelphia. Classes are offered to all students regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, religion, or national origin.