A family of immigrants is helping non-English speakers succeed in learning the language.
The Dutra family, originally from Brazil, owns and operates Internexus Provo, a school that teaches English as a second language. The family believes that, even outside of English-speaking countries, the ability to speak the language helps individuals attain more success. The school targets teenagers, college students and families who need English language skills in order to continue their post-secondary education or improve their careers.
Pricila Dutra, student services coordinator at Internexus Provo, explained that their students hail from all over the globe: Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Mongolia, China, Congo, Nigeria, Madagascar, Russia, Guam, Spain, Portugal, Haiti and Central and South America. Many who graduate from Internexus go on to schooling at Utah colleges and universities. Others graduate and return to their native country to continue schooling or further their career.
Most of the 120 students at the school are enrolled in a two-year program where they go from no knowledge of English to speaking and writing at a university level.
“Our main goal is to get them the English they need to be ready for further education. Most of them here, they know education is the best route,” Pricila Dutra said. “Because we are foreigners ourselves, we know the challenges you face in a new country. Now we are established in the country, we feel like we need to help others coming to this country.”
The Dutra family worked in a similar type of business when they lived in Brazil, before moving to Utah in 2006. A few years ago, when Pricila Dutra’s father, Valmir Dutra, heard that Internexus Provo — which is part of a global franchise — needed new administration, he knew he wanted to be involved in the Provo location. Valmir Dutra is the center’s director, and is passionate about helping others with their language skills and education.
“We love to help people. We grew up serving people in our own country, and when we came here, we found we could help a lot of people here,” he said.
The Dutra family treats their students as family, because many of them are far away from their families for an extended stretch of time. Often, as new students, many rely on the Dutras to help them navigate through the many steps of getting settled in Utah County. By the time they are finished with school, though, they are able to function with fluency when arranging housing, transportation and other necessities.
Valmir Dutra said many foreigners are drawn to Utah because of its reputation for safety. Even those who do not belong to the state’s predominant religion value this.
“We sell Utah and Provo as one of the best places in the world for them to come and have security and a tranquil life,” Valmir Dutra said, explaining that many of their students also enjoy how receptive Utah County residents are to foreigners.
With national-level news and actions, the Dutras saw some dips in the interest level of foreigners wanting to come to the United States. But recently their numbers have raised back to more normal levels.
When the Dutra family started with Internexus Provo about three years ago, the school was struggling with low enrollment numbers, but the family worked to turn it around. Their efforts paid off, and the school has been experiencing steady growth since. They recently celebrated a grand re-opening to show off their expanded space within their offices near Walmart in Provo.
The Dutras are in the process of forming partnerships with local universities to benefit the students further. Overall, the family hopes to unify those in the education industry, so they can better work together and not overlap or compete in their services. Valmir Dutra said he hopes they will be able to announce a significant partnership within the next three months.
“With that in place, we will be able to expand our ways to help our students,” he said.
The Dutra family also hopes to eventually expand into a building of their own so they can serve more students.