The American Home is registered with the Russian government as a "non-commercial educational institution." It provides instruction in both English and Russian and facilitates intercultural exchanges. The home's design reflects a typical American suburban home. Its main focus is its EFL program which now serves almost 500 Russian students during its fall and spring terms and more than 100 students during its 6 week intensive summer program.
The home was built in 1992 by Serendipity: Russian Consulting & Development, LTD - now doing business as Serendipity-Russia - to foster relations between the United States and Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Dr. Ron Pope, a professor at Illinois State University (now retired) organized the project to showcase American construction materials and home building techniques, with the intent of fostering investment and trade opportunities. Vladimir was selected by Dr. Pope because of its relationship to Bloomington-Normal, one of Vladimir's sister cities. Materials were donated by more than 50 North American companies and volunteer labor was provided by 25 primarily central Illinois builders and Illinois State University Industrial Technology students. The energy efficient house was designed and its construction was supervised by Illinois State University Industrial Technology professor, Dr. Ed Francis. Dr. Pope's father, Russell Pope, provided the more than $100,000 that was needed to cover expenses such as shipping (usable building materials were not available at the time in Russia). Construction began May 18, 1992 and the house was dedicated that July 4, much to the pleasant surprise of the Russians who were used to even relatively small projects taking much longer to complete. The house includes three bedrooms, one full and two half bathrooms, a two-car garage (now largely converted to a waiting area for students and visitors), and a typical American yard with a lawn and flower beds.
After construction the aims of the project changed, and the major goal of the American Home—in addition to its focus on facilitating intercultural communication through its language programs and the facilitaiton of educational exchanges—became the promotion of community development in Vladimir and the surrounding area, with a special emphasis on tourism development.].
Dr. Ron Pope, founder and president of Serendipity, oversees the organization from Bloomington-Normal, Illinois. The American Home's Russian Executive Director is Galya Altonen. Her husband, Alexei Altonen, is in charge of "special projects." On the American side, in addition to Dr. Pope, former American Home teachers David Johnson, Jane Keeler, and Brooke Ricker are playing important roles. David, an Instructor of Russian at Vanterbilt University, is concentrating on the development of the Home's Intensive Russian program and related area, Jane Keeler is the webmaster, and Brooke Ricker assists with the English program. Both Jane and Brooke are currently enrolled in ESL-related graduate programs.
The English program at the American Home provides EFL [English as a Foreign Language] lessons for Russians. Students range in age from 13 to 60+ and come from a variety of backgrounds. Classes are taught at 11 levels from beginners through advanced students. Instruction is provided by 8 Americans and two experienced Russians (who teach the very beginning level). Each regular class meets twice a week for an hour and a half in the evening. Two discussion classes meet once a week during the fall and spring terms. The six week summer school classes meet for 2.25hrs three times a week. On Saturdays, the teachers present American culture through movies, presentations,and activities such as game night and holiday celebrations.
American Home Programs
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- Kline, Greg (February 7, 2005). "UI team gives tourism tips to Russian city". The News-Gazette (Champaign-Urbana, Illinois). Retrieved September 7, 2009.
- Shepherd, Leslie (July 15, 1992). "Yet Another American Dream to Haunt Russians". The San Francisco Chronicle. p. 9.
- Ryabinkin, Charity (January–February 2000). "An American Home in Russia". Transitions Abroad Magazine. XXIII (4). Retrieved September 7, 2009.
- Barranco, Jessica (August 3, 2005). "Teacher Thankful for Fulbright-Hays Experience in Russia". The News-Gazette (Champaign-Urbana, Illinois). Retrieved September 7, 2009.