Student suggestions led to new lounge at Willmar's ABE
WILLMAR — A new student lounge opened Wednesday at Willmar's Adult Basic Education, giving students an alternative to wandering the halls during class breaks.
Dozens of students and teachers visited the lounge on its first day and loaded their plates from a potluck lunch. The food was from a variety of cultures, representing the diversity of the Adult Basic Education students.
Many in the program are learning English. Others are studying for their GEDs or preparing to take citizenship tests.The program uses the western half of Jefferson Learning Center, the base of Willmar Community Education. Classes are offered during the day and in the evening, to accommodate student work schedules.
"We've dreamed about it for years," said program director Laura Morales in her welcome.
"Thank you to the students; it was your idea," she said. She thanked teachers, too, for helping to make the break room possible.
Students participated in a video as part an application for a Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota grant.
The grant allowed the program to purchase a refrigerator, microwave, tables and chairs, Morales said. It gives students a place to keep their lunch and heat it up, or warm a cup of tea.
Students said they are glad to have the room.
"It's a good room," said Madina Ali. She has lived in the United States for nine years, six years in Texas and the past three in Willmar.
"I think everybody's happy," she said.
After living in Virginia for a few years, Darian Ponce moved to Willmar a year ago. She is originally from Honduras.
The break room "is very needed for the students," she said. "We feel welcome here; it's a very nice place."
The lounge will be used a lot, she said, and will be a good alternative to hanging out in the hallway.