Houston, Texas is one of the most diverse cities in the world. I used to think it was all cowboy hats and oil, but there are certain parts of the city where you are much more likely to see a burka than a bolo tie. Some people are unsettled by this.
The folks at Prestige Language Institute are not among that group.
Since 2012, PLI has been fostering community development and opening doors of opportunity for adult immigrants and refugees. In the midst of all the political drama — Who gets in? Who doesn’t? Are we safe? What do we do? — Prestige Language Institute is laser focused on providing culturally appropriate and affordable language and literacy education that empower people.
They look like a language school, but they’re really building a stronger community — not just among immigrants and refugees, but with immigrants and refugees.
My wife and I had the honor of attending a fundraiser for PLI this past weekend. It was delightful, with good conversation around our table, delicious Afghan food, and meaningful testimonies from folks born in the U.S. talking about how they’ve grown to not just be tutors to their non-U.S.-born students, but also friends with those same people.
They say proximity changes your perspective, and it’s certainly changed mine.
I’ve visited PLI, helped serve Thanksgiving dinner to refugees from Syria, Iraq, and elsewhere, met many of their staff, and heard the ins and outs of their work. It is easy to shout opinion. It’s hard to get your hands dirty. PLI has served people from 29 countries in 24 different languages. That’s hard work.
Still, PLI’s passionated, dedicated, and trained volunteer teachers do the hard work. These teachers bring an extremely valuable role within the classes taught. Teachers come from all different backgrounds including business professionals, healthcare workers, homemakers, engineers, teachers, and parents. All of the teachers care for the students and desire growth within the English language.
But in growing in language skills, both sides of the teaching relationship also grow in their understanding of one another. They grow in their friendship. They grow in their love.
When it comes to radical wings of religion, past World Wars and present-day-skirmishes, and shouted opinion on t.v. news outlets, there is plenty of fodder for bad news and angst and fear and misunderstanding.
But when you sit across the table from a refugee who wants to learn English, get a job, provide for their family, and give their kids a better life than they had in their war-torn country, your perspective is likely to change. When you share tea and share stories and share life, your old biases are likely to fade. Prestige Learning Institute is not just teaching English, they’re teaching communities how to interact with people not like them. They’re teaching people how to roll out the relational welcome mat. They’re teaching not just the English language, but the language of love.
If you’re in Houston, I totally recommend you getting connected.
If you’re elsewhere, I urge you to find a similar organization and get involved.
Wherever you are, let’s make more Good News Fridays by making good news wherever we live. It’s easy to shrug your shoulders at the problems we face as a society. It’s difficult to work at real solutions.
Prestige Language Institute is the real deal offering real solutions to real problems — not just for immigrants who need to learn a language, but to a watching world who need to learn how to love.