Business & Society

USU Moab Offering ESL Classes to Aid Burgeoning Hispanic Population

Leticia Bentley teaches Moab's community education English as a Second Language course.

MOAB, Utah — As the cultural landscape of Moab evolves, so do the educational initiatives aimed at meeting the needs of its diverse population. The latest endeavor comes from Utah State University Moab, which has inaugurated a community education English as a Second Language (ESL) class tailored to serve the burgeoning Hispanic immigrant community.

According to data from the U.S. Census, the Hispanic population in Moab has surged over the past few decades. In 1990, Hispanics comprised 4.3% of the local populace, a figure that had grown to 17.1% by 2022. This demographic shift underscores the necessity for educational programs addressing language barriers and fostering inclusivity.

In response to this demographic trend, USU Moab initiated an ESL program designed to empower non-English speakers with language proficiency. Spearheading this initiative is Leticia Bentley, a longstanding resident of Moab and a dedicated member of the USU Moab Advisory Board. Volunteering her time and expertise, Bentley has taken on the role of instructor for the ESL class.

“The students are wonderful,” Bentley said. “They have a passion for learning and a commitment to attending class. Language plays a vital role in life. These students are dedicated to learning English so they can better support themselves and the community of Moab.”

The inaugural ESL class has attracted a diverse cohort of 30 students hailing from various parts of the globe, including Mexico, Venezuela, Costa Rica, Cuba, Turkey, Puerto Rico, and other places. Among the enrolled students are mothers, fathers and even grandmothers, reflecting the breadth of backgrounds and life experiences among immigrants.

Many students enrolled in the ESL class exemplify resilience and determination as they navigate busy schedules, often juggling two to three jobs to support themselves and their families. Despite these challenges, they demonstrate commitment to attending class, recognizing the importance of English proficiency in their daily lives.

Kristian Olsen, senior associate vice president of USU Moab, echoed Bentley's sentiments, lauding the program as an important service to the community. Olsen said the transformative impact of English language proficiency in unlocking the full potential of students and fostering their integration as active contributors to Moab's social fabric.

Illustrating the tangible benefits of the ESL class is the inspiring journey of one grandmother among the students. Overcoming language barriers, she has progressed from relying on note cards to confidently ordering her daily coffee in English. Her newfound confidence serves as a testament to the empowerment fostered by the ESL program.

Initiatives like the ESL class at USU Moab enrich the lives of individuals and strengthen community. Through programs like these, USU Moab seeks to embrace its diverse population through education and outreach.

As the first session of the ESL class draws to a close on May 29, USU Moab reaffirms its commitment to serving the educational needs of the community. Campus leaders encourage those interested to explore further opportunities. USU invites individuals to visit the USU Moab campus for additional information.

Located in the outdoor recreation paradise of Moab and boasting one of the greenest buildings on any USU campus, Utah State University Moab offers students the personalized attention and small class sizes of a small-town college with the resources of a large university. With programs such as Nursing, Elementary Education, Recreation Resource Management and Social Work, technical education in Health Professions, Automotive and Business, and degree options ranging from associate to doctorate degrees, USU Moab offers programs that help fuel local economies and empower individuals and their communities. Learn more at


Kristian Olsen
Senior Associate Vice President
Utah State University Blanding & Moab


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