PESLSF New Logo 15pc

May 2011 Issue 3

P.O. Box 281
Portland, Maine 04112
Thanks to Bill Dwyer for building us our stunning new website!

PESLSF Scholarship Recipients


FALL 2010


Iryna Klyuchka


Patrick Nzeyimana

DR Congo

Alexis Semuhoza


Uwase Mutumwinka


Nihad Jasim 


Majid Majeed 



Alice Barakagwira


Nagham Fakher Rikan


Fidele Bila

DR Congo

Victoria Perez


Bibiche Ruhara

DR Congo

Mohammed Beshir


Lawum Kayamba

DR Congo

Walaa Al-Dabbagh


Interested in Volunteering?


PESLSF is always looking for people who want to help. There are a variety of positions available and all of them are rewarding on many levels.  


Contact Deb Murray at for more information

Inspired To Give?

PESLSF has applicants waiting to hear right now whether they will receive a scholarship for the Fall semester. Please consider giving a contribution now so that they will be able to attend a class in grammar, reading, or writing in September.Thank you for your generosity!



Are you looking for a completely safe and dependable return on your investment? Read about our five recent PESLSF graduates and know that when you donate to PESLSF you've invested your money where it will really grow.

Josephine Okot

Josephine Okot graduated in 2010 from USM with a bachelor's degree in Social Work. Originally from Sudan, she currently resides in Portland and has two jobs. Josephine is a Multicultural Youth Educator for the United Somali Women of Maine. One of many aspects of this job is educating young people about dating abuse, domestic abuse, and other forms of violence in order to build awareness and prevention among multicultural youth. She also is an interpreter and an independent service worker in the homemaker program with Catholic Charities. She loves her work and feels that she is giving back to her community. During her free time, she trains young girls to do African traditional dance. She says "I named the group "Malika", which means angel. It teaches youth leadership skills, public speaking, and provides the youth a way to heal from their trauma."They perform throughout Maine and the Northeast.  The scholarship from PESLSF was extremely helpful to her as it allowed her to buy books and attend two classes which she couldn't have done otherwise.

Click here to see a video of Josephine. 


Ivanka Stefanova graduated summa cum laude from University of Southern Maine in May 2010 with a bachelor's degree in Accounting. She lives in Portland and works full time as a staff auditor for the accounting firm of MacDonald Page.


Gregoire Butera

Gregoire Butera attended the USM Nursing Program and graduated in 2010. He recently passed his nursing boards and is looking for a job in nursing. Gregoire is employed by Granite Bay Care in Portland. The Butera family seems to have settled in comfortably to their new life in America, a fact which Gregoire attributes to learning the English language. He is grateful for being given a chance through the scholarship. "ESL classes were a key for my life here in this country," he says. "Everything I can do and everything I will do is because of ESL."

Justin Nsenga

Justin Nsenga received a Master's Degree in Community Mental Health and Mental Health Counseling from Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester, NH. He was the 2010 recipient of the John Butchard Award. This award is given to one student who showed great leadership in the communities. Justin was selected by SNHU instructors from among students in more than five campuses. He states, "This was an honor for me and for the PESLSF, which jump started my English and made my path to success. I am grateful for the support I got from PESLSF."He is working for Catholic Charities Diocese of Fort Worth, Texas as a Program Specialist in the Refugee Mental Health Program. Justin is in charge of the program. He develops curriculum material for training and instructs Cultural Ambassadors on how to help refugees with mental health needs. He also trains refugee staff in addition to training people at different agencies such as hospitals, colleges, and mental health agencies on mental health needs of refugees.


Crispin Bolese graduated from the Muskie school in May 2010 with a Master's in Public Policy and Management.  He is very grateful to Barbara Trentacosta and all the people at the university in the ESL program.  While attending  ESL classes at  USM, Crispin was determined to do well. He often asked for extra homework in his writing classes. He says, " My teachers were really great people who cared about you . They would do everything they could to help you."  Current PESLSF scholarship recipient, Victoria Perez states, " The reason I am studying ESL is because of Crispin. He encouraged me and told me I could do it. I thank him for that." Crispin's perseverance, optimism and winning personality will serve him well wherever he goes.

The Portland ESL Fund congratulates Ivanka, Josephine, Gregoire, Crispin and Justin for reaching their goals. We also give thanks to all of our donors for helping these recent graduates overcome incredible odds to reach their dreams and find meaningful employment here in America. We hope these results demonstrate that when you donate to PESLSF you really can change someone's life.

Aliison BrownWhen Allison joined the board of PESLSF last November, it was a natural fit. She has been teaching English as a Second Language for almost twenty years. She states, "I started teaching in the elementary and middle schools in South Portland and, for the past 5 years, I have been teaching at South Portland High School." In addition to her busy teaching schedule, Allison also finds time to volunteer on the board of Etz Chaim Synagogue, Portland and she is the President of the India Street Neighborhood Association. She and her husband moved into Portland's East End in 2000. "We love living in the city - it's a wonderful place to be."


Allison earned her undergraduate degree from George Washington University, her MS from California State University, East Bay and then she did post graduate work at USM. In 1985, she and her husband, artist and teacher, Rush Brown, moved to Maine to teach at Kents Hill School. After three years, they moved to Cape Elizabeth where they raised their children. She adds," We have 2 daughters, 2 sons-in-laws and 2 grand children. Both my children and their families live in Scotland, UK."   


When asked about her interest in joining the board, Allison says, "I was attracted to PESLSF because of the wonderful work they do in helping to further the educational opportunities of the immigrant population of greater Portland.  PESLSF serves an important and unmet need in the community." Allison will be working on the PESLSF Oral History Project. She is a talented addition to the board and her commitment to our mission of helping the local immigrant and refugee population attain English skills is greatly appreciated. Welcome aboard Allison!

Announcing the PESLSF Oral History Project

PESLSF is pleased to announce that the stories of many of our scholarship recipients will be recorded and then archived at  The University of Southern Maine's Jean Byers Sampson Center for Diversity in Maine. Located on the 6th floor of the Glickman Family Library at the USM Portland Campus, the Center collects material documenting the ongoing histories of diverse communities in Maine. Recognizing the importance of preserving the stories of our scholarship recipients, Susie Bock, Director of the Sampson Center, suggested that PESLSF consider archiving the recorded histories at the Center. As a result, the PESLSF Oral History Project was established in 2010. The stories of our scholarship recipients will be made available now and for generations to come to anyone who would like to learn about the immigrants and refugees who arrived here in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, how they felt about their homeland, their journey, and how they were treated upon their arrival in Maine. We hope you will enjoy receiving future PESLSF Newsletters which will be e-mailed more frequently and will feature one of the stories to be archived.


Our next newsletter will feature Victoria Perez from Colombia and new board member, Maggie Ivanova from Bulgaria.

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