Community college student travels more than 200 miles every weekend to attend class

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EL PASO, Texas (KTSM)- An engineer working for a research company in Socorro, N.M. travels more than 200 miles every Saturday to attend English as a Second Language courses at El Paso Community College.

Saminda Fonseka, a Sri Lanka native, wanted to take his English-speaking skills to the next level to improve his work performance. That’s where he found the Intensive English Program at EPCC’s Valle Verde campus. The only catch–it’s a 200 mile drive for him every Saturday.

“I never had a formal English education, so when I was Googling other places around me in New Mexico, I saw lots of people talking about EPCC,” Fonseka said.

Fonseka came to the United States in 2012 to earn a master’s degree in engineering from NMSU. He then moved to Socorro, N.M. for work.

The Intensive Learning Program offers classes for students who want to learn English. EPCC offers 12 levels for the Saturday program and 6 levels for its fast track program which is a very extensive program Monday through Friday, six hours of instruction, seven weeks per level.

“Our students are not just learning English, they’re also learning about the community, latest trends, go to the lab and use computers,” Lucina Flores, a program manager, said.

Flores and other EPCC administrators admire the dedication from the students in the program, acknowledging Fonseka’s dedication to drive hours and hundreds of miles every weekend.

“Our instructors speak highly of him because of his commitment to be here and not just being here but academically,” Flores said. “Our classes begin at 8 a.m., we’re strict with our timing and the thing is, he’s only missed twice in his 3 years.”

“I can say I’ve improved in English at my work so it helps me to keep my job and I think I can do a better job now at my work.”

Because of that, driving more than 200 miles every Saturday is nothing compared to wait awaits him at the end of the road.

Fonseka expects to graduate from his program sometime in 2020.

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