Miracle Fruit Story

All are welcome here!

Free classes at the International Language Institute (ILI) of Massachusetts (USA)

Our Goal

Meet María Teresa, an inspiring immigrant.

María Teresa, from El Salvador, is simply extraordinary. She exemplifies the high motivation and dedication of so many immigrants to the U.S.

As the mother of four—with three sons at home and the oldest, a daughter, on a college scholarship—she obtained full-time employment with a local restaurant to support her family after her husband’s death from leukemia. Yet, María Teresa faithfully arrives at class two nights a week for three hours each night because she knows how important English proficiency is for herself and her family. In keeping with her giving spirit, she takes time to encourage her fellow students and help them become more at ease, earning the respect and admiration of ILI teachers and students alike.

Maria Teresa is one of the many students who the International Language Institute of Massachusetts (ILI) has helped over the years, thanks to our ability to offer free English classes.

Free, did you say?

That's right. Read on to learn how we made this possible...

Our Miracle Fruit

Yes, we said FREE English classes!

When we opened our doors in the mid-1980’s, we knew the welcoming, inclusive western Massachusetts region presented a great opportunity to carry out our mission—promoting strong communities and cultural understanding through excellent language instruction and teacher training.

Early on, we realized a large number of immigrants and refugees could not afford the fee for our Intensive English Program. Nor could they commit to the timeframe of several hours a day for several weeks in a row that the course requires. These would-be students wanted to attend evening courses a few times a week to accommodate their daytime jobs and childcare responsibilities. So we focused on providing evening classes at no cost to them.

In 1988, we formed what is now a 30-year (and still going) partnership with the Massachusetts education department to support about two-thirds of the costs for our free English evening classes. Thanks to our motivated students who share their stories at our annual “Giving Voice” fundraising event, generous donations from individuals, local businesses, and foundations cover ILI’s share of the costs.

A partnership with the state education department and the generosity of local individuals, businesses, and foundations make possible our free English classes for immigrants and refugees.

ILI’s free English classes now include a cadre of community volunteer tutors, trained by ILI’s Education/Career Advisor and long-time social worker. The tutors enthusiastically meet with students at least once a week to help them practice their English skills. Our Advisor also works with ILI instructors and students to establish goals and link the students with career centers and numerous social service providers in the community.

Last year, United Way (a business-supported foundation) awarded ILI a three-year grant to launch an advanced-level course, at no cost to the students, for graduates of our free English classes. The course focuses on English in the work place and on improving the students’ digital and technology skills.

In addition, Dean’s Beans Organic Coffee (a local business with a social conscience) established a five-year scholarship that funds qualified students in the free English classes for enrollment in our Intensive English Program, where they join students from around the world.

In another big win, Dean’s Beans generosity motivated an anonymous donor to contribute $3000 to the scholarship program this year!

The generosity of a local business and anonymous donor established a scholarship program that enables immigrant and refugee students to attend ILI’s fee-based intensive English program with students from around the world.

Meet our students!

Meet Zeynep, recipient of ILI’s first scholarship for immigrant students

Zeynep, from Turkey, is the first recipient of the Dean’s Beans Organic Coffee scholarship. She has been an exemplary student in our free English classes since 2015, and when not busy with her family (husband and two children) and school, she volunteers her time to raise funds for needy children in western Massachusetts. This past year, she realized one of her major goals when she obtained her first job, at a local retail store.

Meet Aimee, a refugee to the U.S. and now a citizen of her adopted country

Aimee, from the Democratic Republic of Congo, joined ILI classes a few years ago and hasn’t looked back since. She is now enrolled in a local, two-year community college, where she won four awards this year, and is investigating universities as she looks forward to graduation next year. Aimee is the first ILI student to join our Board of Directors. She teaches Zumba classes when she is not attending college and spending time with her husband and young son. In 2017, she achieved a major milestone when she became a U.S. citizen!

We invite readers to learn more about the International Language Institute of Massachusetts (ILI) and the wonderful western Massachusetts city of Northampton, as well as its surroundings that support our efforts.

Together, our school and our region live up to the motto, "All are welcome here - no matter where you are from, whom you love, or what language you speak!"

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Miracle Fruit

Native to West Africa, the miracle fruit got its name because it turns sour things sweet. Eureka! When eaten, the effect can last for about 30 minutes.


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