As guests file into the Turning Stone Resort Casino to start their destination weekends, a group of Mandarin Chinese table games dealers – on a different mission – enter one of the many conference rooms of the Resort. As English-language learners, they are eager to start their adult literacy classes and get to it before the teacher even enters the room.

“This group is so excited to learn, nobody wants to lose their seat in the class, if they have to miss a class they are really upset,” said program coordinator and Human Resources Training Specialist Frank Frisillo, who assures nobody will lose their seat, even though the classes have become popular.

The classes are offered by the Oneida Indian Nation in partnership with Mohawk Valley Community College to help improve the communication skills of its many employees who speak English as a second language.

Only English is spoken by the teacher and a variety of exercises that help students with their conversational English, grammar and vocabulary are presented. Recently the teacher projected a list of travel words and phrases on the screen in front of the students to spark conversations they are likely to have with guests and help improve their overall communication, a skill they can take anywhere.

Three classes are currently being offered at Turning Stone, two days a week, three hours a day.  No minor commitment, the adult literacy classes quickly filled and currently include Mandarin Chinese, Karen, Burmese and Somali speakers. The classes are open to all employees at Oneida Nation Enterprises. Nearly 40 different languages spoken by employees at the Resort.