Harvard is home to 13,000 workers. Some of them are also his students. | News

When he’s not working as a janitor at Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, native Spanish-speaker Luis M. Toribio attends weekend classes at Harvard to hone his English skills and practice his pronunciation. Two years ago, he says, he struggled to communicate in English – but today he proudly exclaims that he can now do an entire interview in English.

Toribio is one of many Harvard workers taking classes through the Bridge Program, a university-run adult learning center that offers ESL classes, career development workshops, an adult diploma program and citizenship courses.

“When I started the Bridge program, it was difficult for me to express myself in English,” Toribio said. “And after being in the program, I learned English, I learned to express myself. It was amazing. I met a lot of people. »

The program, launched in 1998, is funded and managed by Harvard’s human resources department, which makes tuition, books and other course materials free for workers.

“I think it’s an amazing program that Harvard has for workers, for all people who need it,” Toribio said.

Nicole “Niki” Radvany, training manager for the Bridge program, said “the goal of the courses and workshops is to improve the skills of employees to be successful in their careers, as well as in their daily lives.” .

Toribio said he thought the program was “amazing”, but added that it was sometimes difficult to balance classes with his work and family responsibilities.

“To be honest, it’s very difficult to do homework, because we have to work, we have to take care of the family,” he said. “It’s tough, to be honest, it’s very tough.”

“You also have to spend time with your family – you have to divide time for family, time for schoolwork, time for work,” he added.

In addition to the Bridge Program, Harvard also offers a Tuition Assistance Program, which allows workers to access degree programs at a reduced cost.

The program partially subsidizes tuition for courses employees take at participating Harvard schools. It allows workers to take classes or graduate for $40 per class at Harvard Extension School or 10% of tuition at other eligible Harvard schools, such as Graduate Schools of Education, government, public health and design.

Employees who take advantage of TAP can pursue undergraduate or graduate studies, as well as several graduate certificates at the Harvard Extension School, which offers hundreds of evening classes and flexible study programs.

Rianna Brooks, a research specialist with Harvard’s Access to Justice Lab, has used the TAP program to take dance classes at Harvard Dance Center, math and computer science classes at HES, and analysis and data visualization at Harvard Graduate School of Design.

“For me, the TAP program is one of the most valuable benefits of being a research staff member at the University,” she wrote in an email.

Still, Brooks wrote that she would like to see “more Harvard graduate programs accepting part-time TAP students into degree programs.”

Curt E. Rheault, president of the Harvard University Security, Parking, and Museum Guards Union, said he found the TAP program “surprisingly good.” Rheault took an English course through TAP to help him run his small business, Compass Technology.

“I use it every day which is amazing for me. It really helped a lot on the management side,” he said.

Rheault also praised the learning environment at the Extension School.

“Most people there take the courses because they want to take the courses; they want to learn,” he said. “You don’t have people who don’t want to be there, which is refreshing.”

“You usually have very good teachers and good feedback – because otherwise they don’t last [at HES] — which is not my normal undergraduate and high school experience,” he added.

Rheault has now taken 17 courses and completed a master’s degree at Harvard Extension School through TAP, and he said he may also return to earn a master’s degree in sustainability.

“I wish everyone who works at Harvard who has the opportunity to use the TAP program at least give it a chance for a class,” he said. “I’ve always pushed it, but I would like Harvard to push it more because I think that’s a big asset they have.”

—Sophia Scott can be contacted at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @ScottSophia_.

—Claire Yuan can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @claireyuan33.

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