Mason Employee Excels at Bilingual Class

Posted: July 20, 2006 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Nicholas Zinzer

When El Salvador native Mario Ceceres arrived in the United States, his lack of English was obvious and caused him problems. The Spanish speaker ran into impediments in day-to-day interactions on the job, running errands and dealing with native English speakers.

Much of that has changed, thanks to a relatively new program offered to some non-English speaking Mason employees at the Fairfax Campus last fall. The course, titled “Mason Links to Language, Learning and Literacy,” aims to improve comprehension of the English language for non-native speakers.

Ceceras, an hourly worker with the Office of Housing and Residence Life, was so successful in the class that he was presented with an Outstanding Student award last month.

“My English now is better. Before [the class] my English was nothing,” says Ceceras, who has been employed with Mason for three years.

The English class was created by a coalition that included the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia, Sodexho Services, Mason faculty members and New Century College. It was offered to employees from the Office of Housing, Facilities, Mason Dining Services and LT Services, a contracted company that handles housekeeping on campus.

Mario Ceceres wins award
Mario Ceceres with (from left) his manager, Bill Garney; Patty Donally, executive director of the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia; and Chris Chisler, Mason’s director of University Services.

Ceceras attended the 90-minute English language class each weekday at 8 a.m. throughout the fall 2005 semester.

“This past semester, Mario Ceceres had perfect attendance. He always arrived to class early and practiced his English with me while he waited for the other students to arrive,” says Carisa Pineda, a staff member at the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia, a nonprofit educational organization that trains volunteers to teach the English language to individuals who need help reading, writing, speaking and understanding English.

Pineda praises him for “always [being] the first to volunteer to read aloud and showing a great deal of enthusiasm for learning.”

In response to his work ethic and success in the class, Ceceras was given additional responsibilities on campus. For example, when his current supervisor is not at work, Ceceras fills in as supervisor.

“Mario is a role model employee. You can count on him,” says Bill Garney, assistant director for operations in the Office of Housing and Residence Life. “He applies himself. If he does not know something, he wants to learn.”

Ceceras says he received widespread recognition from his co-workers in the Office of Housing and Residence Life. “The award felt very good. People here [repeatedly] congratulated me.”

Write to at