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Liu staffer’s class kept alive

The wilting economy may have closed its original home, but City Council staffer Donald Henton’s popular Mandarin class for adults will live on for another year.

Henton, who works for Councilman John Liu (D−Flushing), announced Monday morning that the free Mandarin program he has spearheaded for the last two years will now be held at the East−West School for International Studies in Flushing.

“I think it’s wonderful,” Henton said. “This is the best way for us to come together as a community, to learn together.”

The program, initially housed in the Bland Houses Community Center before it closed last year due to budget cuts, was started by Henton in 2006 as a way to bridge the language barrier often present between Flushing’s English−speaking and burgeoning Asian populations.

The 10−week program will now be held at 46−21 Colden St. on Saturdays beginning March 28 thanks to a funding partnership between the East−West School, the Lewis Latimer House and Asian Americans for Equality.

East−West School Principal Ben Sherman said hosting the program represents an outgrowth of the school’s student programming, which places a focus on learning about Asian cultures and languages. Sherman said the program could provide a unique opportunity for adults looking to get ahead in a poor economic climate.

“There are a lot of adults who are out of work right now. For these adults to be able to put down on their rÉsumÉs that they have certification in Level 1, or perhaps Level 2 or Level 3, Mandarin course, that’s something that could definitely help them,” he said.

The program is free of charge for those who stick with it. As an incentive to completing the course, Henton said the program will require a $20 deposit that will be refunded so long as the student attends all classes on time. The class has about 40 openings.

“Last year, we had people come from the Bronx, from New Jersey even,” Henton said. “I don’t care where you come from, you could come from California as long as you show up on time.”

No prior knowledge is needed to join the program. Classes will be held from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. on Saturday mornings. Those interested in joining should call Liu’s office at 718−888−8747, Ext. 111.

Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e−mail at or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 138.

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