COC students present Saugus Café history to the community

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College of the Canyons English as a Second Language students participated in a real-world research project coordinated by instructor Jessica Edmond. The students researched historical landmarks in Santa Clarita and presented their findings to the community.  

“Last semester my ESL 096 students participated in the Afternoons with the Professors  & Friends program at Friendly Valley,” Edmond said. “They enjoyed it so much, we are continuing the project this semester.”  

After student Edwin Pacas presented for the first time, he said, “I was afraid at first that I would make a mistake and I feared that my audience wouldn’t understand me. But our group prepared very well and after the presentation, I felt really proud.”  

Other members of the group included Gloria Patty, Hyonsook Kang, Mary Dolmanova and Fatima Vasquez. 

“This is a wonderful opportunity for students to have an authentic, real-life experience talking to native English speakers as their audience,” Edmond said. “The project also helps students to develop research skills, practice organizing and citing information, and creating PowerPoint presentations.” 

This semester, ESL Professor Katie Simpson’s students volunteered to participate. The group’s first research topic was the Saugus Café, the oldest restaurant in L.A. County. Students participated in a Zoom interview with Yecenia Mercado, the daughter of the Saugus Café’s owner. They learned about the history of the restaurant and the recent hardships it has faced during the pandemic. They presented their research to residents of Friendly Valley through a Zoom presentation on March 26.  

“I am so proud of our students for their courage and hard work,” Simpson said. “They put a lot of time and effort into this presentation, and they delivered it with such confidence and professionalism.” 

Student Fatima Vazquez Vegas said, “This was a really good project for me because I learned a little more about the United States, this beautiful country. It’s hard when you have a second language to explain your feelings but this is good practice.”  

The group is planning its second Saugus Café presentation on May 28, which will be delivered via Zoom to the residents of Bridge to Home. The ESL department is partnering with COC’s Civic Engagement department to support the Saugus Café by hiring them to cater lunch for the Bridge to Home residents after the presentation. 

Edmond and Simpson plan to continue the program next semester since there has been such a positive response from the community.  

Friendly Valley resident Rose Marie Walrath said, “This was a wonderful presentation, and it gave students an opportunity to search and present material. I enjoyed their talk so much. It was very interesting.” 

To attend the next Zoom presentation, contact Jessica Edmond at [email protected]. 

For information about ESL classes at COC, email Heather Maclean at [email protected]. 

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