Monday, November 23, 2009

Plethora of Polyglots

On Saturday, November 14th I attended an inspiring luncheon. Last fall, Central Christian Church was awarded a grant from the Virginia Hagan Family Foundation to conduct a study about the existing English as a Second Language (ESL) services in Lexington and how they could be improved. With the help of many community researchers and collaboration among many community organizations like the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government, Fayette County Public Schools, the University of Kentucky, and Lexington Public Library; ESL teachers and students were surveyed to answer important foundational questions such as: Who are the teachers? Who are the students? Where do they live? How can ESL services be improved?

No research of this kind has ever been conducted in Lexington before. The results give us a fascinating glimpse into the diversity that lives and breathes in our community. Data gathered from FCPS students in the ESL program alone showed that in less than a year's time, over 20 new languages were introduced to Lexington. This information does not even account for single adults, families with children younger than 5, or children who are not enrolled in ESL but still speak another language at home.

Another organization that provided valuable statistical data to the study is Kentucky Refugee Ministries. KRM is a voluntary refugee resettlement office in Lexington. As a partner in the international resettlement process, over the last 10 years they have introduced almost 1000 new members to our community from over 30 different countries. Many of the refugees often speak more than one language.

LFUCG Multicultural Affairs Coordinator Isabel Gereda Taylor took all of the data collected to the LFUCG Division of Planning to create a visual picture of where non-native English speakers live in our community. The resulting image is astounding!

Diversity truly is everywhere in our community! Unfortunately, the current availability of ESL classes just does not meet the demand. The reveal of the assessment's findings on the 14th was merely a starting point for our community's journey to improve ESL services in Lexington. If you want to volunteer to help execute the improvements identified by the 80 community members who attended the luncheon like better promoting the services that already exist or finding more funding for future endeavors, please contact Isabel Gereda Taylor at or call 859.258.3824.

If you would like to volunteer to help someone improve their English, I will be facilitating an English Conversation Group starting in January.

If you have a few hours to spare to help someone learn English and open up many new doors for themselves and their families, please contact me at or 859.231.5514.

To see the full assessment report from the 14th, visit Central Christian Church's website.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


There is a community where hundreds of refugees have resettled from at least 30 different countries to start a promising new life for their families, bringing pieces of their unique cultures along with them. There is a town so diverse that students from the public schools go home to families speaking over 50 different languages other than English. Every year in that city, thousands of people participate in a month of daily fasting during the Islamic religious holiday Ramadan while thousands more fast for the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur. In the same community, citizens who have disabilities lobbied for more input in urban planning and development and got a commission dedicated to the task in response. This city has also communicated its commitment to diversity by enacting an ordinance to protect people who may face discrimination due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. Would you be surprised to learn that if you’re reading this post, then you probably live in this community? I just described Lexington, KY.

My name is Lindsay Mattingly and I am the Multicultural Liaison of the Lexington Public Library. Part of my job as a member of our Outreach Services team is to educate the community-at-large about the diversity that can be found right here in Lexington. And what better way is there to share information with a whole community of people than through the marvel of modern technology that is the blog? I will be posting interviews, videos and writing my own observations about diversity in Lexington. I want to highlight groups, organizations, and individuals whose contributions to the richness of our community are often overlooked. For example, have you read the book Lexington, Kentucky by Gerald L. Smith that chronicles the history of African Americans in our town? Have you ever looked through some of the unique histories stored in the Kentucky Room on the 3rd floor of the Central Library? Lexington has always had a lot more to offer than just basketball and horses! Though we are small, we are a vibrant and diverse community. It’s time to share that with the world.