Local woman volunteers to help immigrants learn English

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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KJCT/KKCO) -- Jessie Kelleher teaches adults to speak English as a second language.

With a background in humanities and foreign language, she helps immigrants and newly minted U.S. Citizens apply for jobs and driver's licenses.

“I have students from Iran and China,” she said. “My goal is to help, ideally become part of the workforce, and help them to live the fulfilled lives they want.”

And she does all of this, on top of her day job. Kelleher works for Hilltop, one of the largest non-profits on the Western Slope, in IT. In her spare time she uses an understanding of language acquisition, to change people's lives.

“It fills up my soul,” Kelleher said. “I enjoy helping them grow as humans because it helps me to grow as a human.”

Once, her work even helped to save a life.

“One of my student’s has been studying with me since 2011. When she first moved to the U.S., she couldn’t even pronounce her chosen English name,” Kelleher said.

Now, that student works at Hilltop.

“We had a resident who tried to kill himself in front of her, but she saw it and was able to call for help on the radio and get help to come, so he was saved,” she said.

Kelleher is one of many volunteers at Hilltop.

"We have volunteers that provide over 2,000 hours per month, so it really is just a great way to engage the community, bring is expertise," Paide Cadman, a volunteer coordinator, said. "It allows us to provide a lot of those needed services."