Our Mission

Our mission is to lift NYC’s newly-arrived, adult, documented immigrants, refugees and asylees from underemployment and poverty to decent jobs and prosperity, helping them gain self-sufficiency by:

  • Providing them with the knowledge, skills & confidence to communicate confidently in the English language.

  • Enabling them to obtain employment commensurate with their skills and experience or to continue their post-secondary education.

  • Helping them to become productive & contributing members of American society.


Our Programs and Services

Riverside is the only free, full-time English classes for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) instruction in New York City. Since we began in 1979, we have helped more than 30,000 immigrants from over 80 countries learn English rapidly, thereby accelerating their entry into the American workforce or their pursuit of a higher education.

Riverside offers an intensive English learning program for several different levels of English proficiency:

  • Students are in class full-time for six consecutive weeks, from 9am-3pm, Monday through Friday.

  • We conduct pre-testing to place them in the appropriate level classes, as well as post-testing to measure educational achievement and language proficiency.

  • Our dedicated volunteers conduct informal conversation sessions several times a week, providing authentic opportunities to communicate in a “real world’ situation, building fluency and confidence.


In addition to English language classes, Riverside provides:

  • IT instruction in our Workshop/Computer Lab, to prepare students for the American workforce.

  • Civics instruction as a core part of the curriculum.

  • Counseling services – our dedicated counselor provides support with issues such as housing, health insurance, financial aid and college applications.

  • Support with job readiness skills and referrals to community partners for job placement.


Our Results

Riverside has a very sound track record and continues to outperform other programs:

  • Riverside is in the top 5% of all NY State adult education programs, based on the annual NY State Report Card measuring educational gain, employment and other achievements.

  • 86% of our students achieve at least one educational gain after their 6-week class program. This compares very favorably to the State benchmark of 51%.

  • Riverside teaches in 6 weeks what it takes 1 year to learn in a part-time program.

Gaining English proficiency increases our students’ career opportunities and potential earnings: Studies have shown that gaining English proficiency can increase immigrants’ salary by as much as 20-40%.*

*Study by Center for Public Democracy and Make the Road NY, April 2016

Our Staff

BERTA COLON  Executive Director


Executive Director

Imelda Cabezas  Case Manager/Counselor

Imelda Cabezas

Case Manager/Counselor



TESOL Instructor

Lindsay Pearson  TESOL Instructor

Lindsay Pearson

TESOL Instructor

Sofya Ramm  Officer Manager

Sofya Ramm

Officer Manager

Elizabeth Sprenger  TESOL Instructor

Elizabeth Sprenger

TESOL Instructor

HuiFang Sun  Administrative Assistant

HuiFang Sun

Administrative Assistant


Board of Directors

Luana I Alesio, Chair

Michelle Anthony

Suzanne Carothers

Shoma Chatterjee

Karuna Chhabra

Sherry Preiss



Our Community Partners

African Services Committee

Ali Forney Center for homeless LGBTQ youth

Andrew Romay Immigrant Center

Bellevue Hospital Program for Survivors of Torture

B’nai Jeshurun

Bronx Community College

Catholic Charities – New International Center

Central American Legal Assistance

Columbia University – Columbia Community Service

Cooper Union Retraining Program for Immigrant Engineers


Edith & Carl Marks JCH of Bensonhurst

Henry Street Settlement

Human Rights First

International Rescue Committee

LaGuardia Community College – Center for Immigrant Education & Training

Make the Road

NYC Department of Education – Office of Adult & Continuing Education

New York State Department of Labor

Per Scholas

RDJ Shelter for Refugee and Asylee Men

Rutgers Church

Safe Horizon

Sanctuary for Families

Shorefront YM-YWHA

Streetwise Partners

SUNY Educational Opportunity Centers

Upwardly Global

Workforce 1 Center for foreign-born New Yorkers

YMCA New Americans Centers

Our financials

Riverside financial records are below: