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Since 1979, RLP has empowered more than 30,000 newly-arrived, documented immigrants in NYC, by providing free, intensive English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) classes.

Our mission is to transcend the cliché: immigrants sacrificing their own lives, slaving in dead-end jobs so that their children might one day live the American Dream.  Our students are empowered to live it themselves: early in the resettlement process they acquire sufficient English to become engaged citizens, entering work commensurate with their skills and experience or enrolling in further education or training.

Graduation, Summer 2015: students from China, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Russia and Guinea.

What we deliver

Uniquely in NYC, Riverside students receive a minimum of 150 hours of free classes in 6.5 weeks – so that in four to six months, progressing through three ESOL levels, they are ready to move into the larger world of education, training and work.

Students are recruited citywide to our Manhattan site and carefully blended into classes where the only common language is English. Venturing outside the comfort zones of their own ethnic/linguistic neighborhoods enables students to enjoy multiple educational gains as they learn to integrate with others.

Fear of difference – religion, race, financial situation, age, work experience, education, is replaced with mutual respect, tolerance and the capacity to live and work peacefully alongside those who once were strangers, perhaps even enemies.

We work in collaboration with many agencies to identify

 those in need of our services, including Safe Horizon for victims of violence, the Bellevue Center for Survivors of Torture, Catholic Charities and the International Rescue Center aiding refugees and victims of trafficking. We also prepare students for the CUNY CLIP program.

At Riverside, we stress the importance of diversity, fostering understanding, tolerance and respect.


NY State Education Department (NYSED) consistently declares RLP as 'Highly Proficient'. At least 84% of our students increase an educational level or more in mandatory state adult ESOL tests. The norm of such gain is routinely nearer 54%.


RLP teachers are all native English speakers with Master’s Degrees in TESOL or related subjects and wide-ranging experience. Our non-teaching staff are personally familiar with the immigrant experience: all are recent, first-generation immigrants and four are RLP graduates. Our executive director has a master's degree in English from Cambridge University in England as well as post graduate degrees in foreign language courses.


Why we need your help

Riverside Language Program enjoys the support of the Federal government, the New York State Education Department, New York City’s Department of Youth and Community Development, the Tides Foundation (through West Harlem Development Corporation) and New York State's Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance.

We are immensely grateful to the agencies that assist us financially with our mission, but we must still routinely turn away three to four applicants for every student we can take.

We hope we have moved you to consider investing in

our program, so that we can serve more of the immigrants, refugees and asylees who daily pour into New York City in need of our help.

As the Center for Applied Linguistics summed it up: "Intensive ESOL instruction early in the resettlement process opens doors to decent employment, stable family life, responsible citizenship and hope for the future – not just for one’s children, but for oneself."

If you would like to explore the possibility of supporting our work please contact Sally Nelson at 212 662 3200 x202 or email:

Copyright 2017 Riverside Language Program • 270 West 89th Street • New York • NY • 10024 • A 501c3 nonprofit organization