Lynn caterer serves up language lessons

Marcos Torres gets his diploma for finishing workplace-based English classes.


LYNN — Sidekim Foods, a Lynn-based catering company, is partnering with World Education, Inc. to teach Spanish speaking employees basic English at the workplace.

World Education, Inc. is a nonprofit organization that provides training and technical assistance in literacy, workplace, and HIV and AIDS education around the world.

Sidekim is owned by Peter Mikedis, who said teaching his entry-level employees English is beneficial to his staff and business.

“For us, it’s important (the employees) learn because it helps us as a company,” Mikedis said. “Maybe in six months, their English will be better and they will qualify for a supervisor position. They already know Sidekim foods. You can teach someone how to operate a machine but you can’t teach them values like dedication and loyalty.”

His father, who immigrated from Greece, spent time learning English in a classroom after working a factory job to provide for his family, he said. To make learning the language more convenient, he is allowing his employees to take a two-hour class twice a week while getting paid.

The 28-week program, which will be offered three times in three years, is paid for with a grant from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education totaling about $120,000, said World Education coordinator Kathleen O’Connell. The money covers the cost of educating 10 employees during each session.

Nonprofit awards doctors, students

“Every adult ESL program in the state, if it’s any good, will have a 100-person waiting list,” said Silja Kallenbach, vice president of World Education. “So this is really special.”

Teacher Dakota Robinson said a lot of the lessons centered on vocabulary and grammar that may be used in the workplace.

“They’re learning names and words for things that are helpful for the job,” said Robinson. “To be able to say in English ‘I’m having a problem with this packing machine’ is very important.”

Robinson also taught the students about workplace safety and the reasons behind wearing hair nets, gloves, and taking other safety precautions, she said.

Mildred Escobar, a student who moved to the United States from Guatemala, said she enjoyed the class most because she now has “a little more confidence speaking and writing.”

The class will begin again in the fall with 10 students.

Bridget Turcotte can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @BridgetTurcotte.

Wayne Alarm: Why Medical Alert is best



Grandma has been feeling ill for quite some time now, and living home alone doesn’t give you or your family  peace of mind. What if you’re currently at work, kids are at school, and grandma had an accident and fell?What if she had no way of being able to reach you or call for help. It’s a situation we don’t want to have to deal with and it’s an event we all want to prevent. How can she reach out in case of an emergency? How can you know if she’s okay? How will she be able to alert you when she needs help?

Today, with technological advances, we are able to find ways to help in situations like this while being in control of our outcome.

When needed, professional Medical Life Alert operators are able to aid in assistance at anytime, from anywhere. With 24/7 monitoring, they standby at a local monitoring station. The easy-to-access emergency button provided immediately alerts the Wayne Alarm Alarm Monitoring Central Station. The best part about it, if you or your loved one are in another room or enjoying the outdoors, a wireless remote activator allows you to activate the system when you are away from the main receiver.

At the moment of alert, you’ll be in contact with a dispatcher giving you high quality communication that allows you to be heard clearly from any room, regardless of the distance. In the time being, an appropriate emergency personnel is then contacted and dispatched to your aid wherever help is needed.

Our loved ones can now have the ability to have more freedom and independence within their home, even while still having the help of a qualified and trained group of professionals standing by whenever you need help. For more questions, give us a call at (781)595-0000 or e-mail us at

Item live-3

“Here yesterday… Here today…Here tomorrow.”

Moulton: Trump, honor our commitment to Haiti

Pictured is U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.).

Commentary by SETH MOULTON

The United States has always stood as a place of refuge in times of crises, especially for our neighbors.

This week, as we honor Haitian Flag Day and the Trump Administration considers whether or not to extend Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to the tens of thousands of Haitians living and working in the United States, we must honor that commitment to our neighbors.

Haitians have a long history here in the United States, from fighting alongside American soldiers in the Revolutionary War, to explorer Jean Baptiste Point du Sable who founded Chicago, to the tens of thousands of Haitian refugees across America, including 84,500 in Massachusetts, who have built their lives here, and contributed to our communities.

This week, the Trump administration will announce whether or not they intend to currently extend TPS for 50,000 Haitian refugees in the United States to enable them to stay while their country tackles insecurity, economic desperation, and health crises.

In the past several years, Haiti has suffered from a series of catastrophic disasters: a devastating earthquake that destroyed 50 healthcare centers and crippled an already-overwhelmed medical system; a cholera epidemic, which killed over 7,000 Haitians and infected at least 530,000, or 5 percent of the population; and Hurricane Matthew that killed 546 Haitians, resulted in nearly $2 billion in damages, and rendered nearly 200,000 Haitians homeless. One of these natural disasters would have crippled Haiti’s already-vulnerable population. Taken together, they have been devastating.

RAW celebration hits close to HOME

Since the program launched in 2010, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has extended TPS benefits to Haitians multiple times, most recently in August of 2015 — before Hurricane Matthew. The merits of doing so again are apparent — we must allow people to live and work in the United States while Haiti continues to heal.  

Unfortunately, the Trump Administration has not only delayed the process, but taken the unusual step of directing DHS to compile evidence of crimes committed by Haitians and sought to obtain evidence of Haitians with TPS taking advantage of public benefits. Given the sheer disregard for immigrants that this Administration has shown, this is sadly not surprising.

The reality is that applicants for TPS already undergo exhaustive criminal background checks and are required to be fingerprinted and re-checked against criminal databases again when the status is extended. Furthermore, Haitians with TPS are simply not eligible for federal benefits such as SNAP, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), or other assistance programs.

There is bipartisan support for the extension of TPS for Haitian refugees, including from Republican Senator Marco Rubio and Republican Congresswoman Mia Love. During a September 2016 campaign stop in Little Haiti, then candidate Trump said to citizens and refugees there: “Whether you vote for me or not, I really want to be your biggest champion.”

I urge the president to keep his promise to the Haitian community and extend TPS. It is not only a responsibility to the Haitian people, our neighbors, but in keeping with the values we uphold as Americans.

Seth Moulton represents the sixth district in the U.S. House of Representatives.


School spending ‘thorn in our side,’ mayor says


LYNN — Five months after the state threatened to withhold millions in school funds, the city is on the hook again as they face a spending shortfall, The Item has learned.

On Thursday, the Department of Education is expected to tell Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy that following a review of the city’s finances, school spending is off by about $826,000. As a result, the state may withhold that amount from Lynn’s $11 million monthly allocation of Chapter 70 school payments in June.

Peter Caron, Lynn’s chief financial officer, said the city is again working to get school spending back on track.

“It’s challenging,” he said. “We are trying to guess how much money we will spend on schools, but the state doesn’t do the accounting until six months after the fiscal year is over. It all goes back to the health insurance; we don’t know in May how much we will spend on it. It’s a crap shoot.”

Kennedy said she expects the school spending issue to be resolved, but she’s not sure how.

“Overall, net school spending has been a thorn in our side for a number of years,” she said. “When you increase the number of students in the schools by nearly 20 percent over the last six years, it causes problems on how to pay for it.”

Harbormaster files lawsuit to save job

Lynn is the fifth largest district in the Bay State with more than 16,000 students.

“Until we can slow the increase in school population or look to possible federal assistance, we will not be able to meet the threshold spending for the foreseeable future,” she said.

The city’s finances came into focus last year when the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education told the mayor that the city’s contribution to school funding was short by $7.5 million and the state threatened to withhold its $11 million November payment in school funds until City Hall came up with more cash.

Since then, the school deficit has been reduced to less than $1 million and the state money was released to the city.

John J. Sullivan, DOE’s associate commissioner, declined to comment until the letter is issued to the mayor.

Thomas Grillo can be reached at


Lynn school makes learning REAL fun

Jasman Nolasco, a member of the REAL program, says how old she is.


LYNN — Jan Plourde is an enthusiastic educator with a dream to spread the love of reading.

She has spent more than 35 years enhancing literacy in day care programs, at North Shore Community College and in Salem State University.  

In 2013, she founded the Reading, Educational, Assistance, Learning program, a nonprofit whose mission is to improve reading and writing.

One of these programs is held this summer at the Washington Street Baptist Church and serves 100 children and some of their parents who are learning English.

The six-week experience includes field trips and art classes, dance and puppet making, centered around communication and literacy skills. Participants are under the guidance of volunteers and high school and college counselors.

Victoria Hackett, 50, a teacher at North Shore Community College, is a program consultant.

“We just planted a community garden filled with tomatoes, peppers and cabbage,” she said. “I loved seeing the kids connect with nature and enjoy the process as we worked in the garden as a team.”

Emma Kane, a sophomore at Ohio University, assists parents teaching English. She said the work is very fulfilling.

“It is wonderful to have a hand in changing someone’s life,” she said. “It is always a big plus when the parents can speak to their children in English.”

Ten-year-old Steven Nolasco, and his five-year-old sister, Jasmine, are experiencing their first summer in the program.

“I have made new friends, and I love to play 4 Square every day,” said Steven. “I am reading books and the mentors are going to help me with two book reports I have to do for school.”