On February 8, surrounded by his family, Everett resident Jeantilus Gedeus presented the founder and CEO of Malden-based The Immigrant Learning Center (The ILC), Diane Portnoy, with a plaque recognizing her support of the Haitian community. The plaque reads: “We hereby present Diane Portnoy with this award in recognition for the free education program you provide for the public. On behalf of the Haitian community, my family and I gratefully offer you this plaque. Thank you, Jeantilus Gedeus.”
Since its inception in 1992, The ILC has helped more than 11,000 immigrants from 122 countries gain the essential skills to create new lives in the United States. The ILC started keeping electronic student records in 2000 and has recorded 2,049 students from Haiti since then. The makeup of its students often reflects world events, and the displacement of Haitians caused by the 2010 earthquake led to an increase in students from Haiti.
Gedeus was a teacher in his native Haiti. In 2010 he first came to The ILC as a student seeking help with English. He later became a classroom volunteer and in 2011 joined the staff as a teacher, helping many other Haitians, as well as immigrants from across the globe, learn English.
When Portnoy was a child, she came to Malden as a refugee with her parents, who were Polish Holocaust survivors. Living in a neighborhood of refugees where no one spoke English instilled in her the importance of language. She has received many accolades over the years, including the key to the city from Malden Mayor Gary Christenson, but Portnoy said none has meant so much to her personally. In accepting the plaque, she credited the hardworking staff of The ILC.