Select Play to see Executive Director Sandra Fugate speak on teaching refugees English in this Knox News Sentinel story from April 18, 2019.


Executive Director, Sandra Fugate, whose career started in social welfare then transitioned to The University of Tennessee as the Adult ESL Coordinator where she handled professional development training for adult ESL teachers.


While teaching supplemental classes for Burundi students at Montgomery Village, Sandra learned that many students who want to learn English are stopped by critical barriers. Those barriers include little or no literacy background, access to transportation to class and childcare during classes. With this idea in mind, Sandra, along with her colleague Dr. Deni Kidd, began teaching English classes at the Burundi church, with Carol Wolfe coordinating a child care program.  When the student population outgrew the church, they formed the Center for English and added transportation to the childcare services which has become an integral part of the Center's program.


Harnessing the power of dedicated volunteers, especially that from Deni Kidd, the Center has evolved into one of the largest support organizations for English language learners in Knoxville and offers services such as translation, culture and citizenship instruction, assistance with job applications and forms, as well as networking with community organizations. The Center, however, remains focused on English classes while providing a safe and welcoming environment where students and their children can learn.


Believing the English language to be the currency for advancement for our students, we work to empower them and their families to successfully integrate into their communities here in East Tennessee.

Click here to see the Knox News Sentinel

story on Center for English from April, 2019

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The people of Knoxville embrace our international population recognizing they grow and enrich our community. Our students are internationals that come to Knoxville in a variety of ways: students, visiting scholars, immigrants, asylum seekers, refugees and more.

A refugee is a person who has been forced to flee their home to escape violence, religious or ethnic persecution, war or famine. Some may live in refugee camps that are created to be temporary, yet on average a refugee may live 18-24 years in a camp before they are invited to live in a new country. After filing paperwork with the United Nations, the wait is often nine months to three years until relocation.

When a refugee is notified that they are being relocated, they have no choice as to which country will be their new home, let alone which area of that country. Call us biased, but we think getting the ticket to East Tennessee is pretty close to winning the lottery! 

Unfortunately, our beautiful town has many challenges to overcome for these refugees who arrive here with absolutely nothing. Most don't even have our language. The heart and soul of our organization is to give Knoxville's refugees, and other internationals, the most basic tool that they need to survive: English.