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Upon stepping into the grocery store, his head immediately started to spin. The rows and rows of produce, each carefully labeled with their names and prices, were too difficult to process. 


Harvard Hua, 52, moved to the United States from China in early January of 2018. On a walk exploring Argyle Street, he came across a flyer about free ESL courses at CMAA and registered on the spot. 


He entered at the Intermediate Level and completed the program as an Advanced level student within half a year. Harvard attributes his progress to the flexibility and openness of his teachers. For instance, when he suggested the incorporation of how to read street signs in Chicago, his instructor immediately adjusted the curriculum to fit his needs.


“He formed friendships with his classmates and became well known to all as a very friendly and exuberant individual,” said Emily Tolzman, Assistant Manager of Adult Education and Workforce Development at CMAA. After completion of the ESL program, he didn’t want to leave his friends. With his computer science background, he started a smartphone and computer basics course for his classmates at CMAA. Harvard taught four classes a week, simultaneously instructing in both Mandarin and English. 


When Heiwa Terrace, a community partner that provides subsidized housing for seniors, reached out to CMAA inquiring about a volunteer translator, Harvard jumped at the opportunity. This led to a paid position. Before Harvard, many of the building’s Mandarin speakers were intimidated and unable to explain any issues that arose in their apartments. Now, the residents feel comfortable asking for help at any time.


What would happen if he wasn’t there? This thought inspired him to come up with the idea of starting and teaching a practical English speaking course at CMAA. This course would cover what to say and do in emergency and everyday situations.


“It was a random decision that started this all,” Harvard said. “CMAA has truly made my life more abundant and rich.” 

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