Adult English Literacy Student Success Stories

Adult English literacy programs are crucial in helping adults with limited English proficiency improve their lives by giving them skills they need to succeed in a career, post-secondary training, family life, and society.

The population of English Language Learners (ELLs) attending English language courses is very diverse, representing adults from many different cultures, languages, educational backgrounds, and socio-economic and life situations.

In today’s post, we are featuring adults who have overcome challenges and reached their life and educational goals. Their stories are truly inspirational and show how adult education impacts the lives of so many adults.

Bergen Community College at Hackensack

Enki Bello. Originally from Colombia, Enki began her studies in the USA in 2010 at Bergen Community College’s (BCC) ESL program located in Hackensack, NJ. “She just needed a few fixes on her grammar, vocab and writing skills. Her love of learning and a strong positive attitude towards reaching her lifelong goals were clear,” says Instructor, Kathleen Cronin.  “I suggested to her that she should look into connecting with the College’s theater program as she often wrote and presented in class about her passion for music and her experiences as a Latina musician.” After working on her English skills, Enki enrolled into BCC’s Associate degree program and pursued a major in Music Business.  In 2013, Enki graduated from BCC and transferred to William Paterson University.  Thereafter, she continued studying towards her Bachelor’s degree in Popular Music Studies, which prepared her for a career in music. You can read more about Enki’s musical journey here.

CARIBE Refugee Program 

Justo Elio Crespo Valladares arrived in the United States in February 2016. He learned about the CARIBE Refugee Program through one of the orientations in Lutheran Services of Florida. He immediately attended school to improve his English skills. He came to the United States with a degree in education and wanted to pursue his career as a teacher. He attended school for 3 months. Immediately after completing the ESOL program, he applied to volunteer for CARIBE as a teacher’s assistant. He tutored struggling students at the Foundations level. While volunteering, he got employed by the University of Tampa as an event coordinator and by World Financial Group as a financial advisor/broker. He really wanted to pursue his educational career so he sought the help of the CARIBE Program in getting his credentials translated and evaluated. He submitted his application to the Florida Board of Education. In a month, he received his Certificate of Eligibility to become a certified teacher in the state of Florida. He immediately applied for a teaching position for Hillsborough County Public Schools Adult Education. Justo is now happily working as a part-time adult ESOL teacher in the CARIBE Refugee Program. He started the new class offerings at CARIBE First Baptist Church in March 2017.

Jose Ciro Gomez arrived in the United States in March of 2016. He was an English in his home country. He heard about the CARIBE Refugee Program from one of the orientations at Lutheran Services of Florida. He immediately started attending school to polish his English skills. His teacher, Maria Fernandez, noticed how good he was. When she found out that he has an education background, she immediately recommended him to volunteer for the CARIBE Refugee Program. While waiting for his volunteer application to be approved, he helped teachers at CARIBE Lois: He tutored struggling students and took over classes when a teacher was called for a meeting. Ciro continued to attend school for 6 months. He finally landed a job at GNC as a store clerk. While working at GNC, he continued to volunteer for CARIBE. During the opening of the Fall Semester 2016, a teaching position opened at CARIBE. He immediately applied for the job. His interview demonstrated his skills and determination. Ciro did well and was hired by CARIBE in August 2016 as a part-time adult ESOL teacher. While working for CARIBE, Ciro has demonstrated hard work and excellence. He has earned the respect of his colleagues and was awarded the Adult Education Rookie Teacher of the Year 2017 at the HTCAA Awards Banquet. The CARIBE Refugee Program could not be any prouder of Ciro’s accomplishments. His story shows that anything is possible with hard work and dedication.

Martin M. and His Father

Martin M. and his father both came to CARIBE at the same time early in the Fall Semester. They stayed with relatives at the time. They successfully finished their semester with Luis Cardenas as their College and Career Readiness ESOL teacher. They were later joined by Martin’s mother who is now attending ESOL classes. All three of them are enrolled in A+ Certification Preparation course at Adult Ed and are now living on their own. They have started to establish their lives in Tampa, and they just bought a car!

Manuel Penalver Tadeo. Manuel Penalver Tadeo’s story is a true story of perseverance and success. Manuel Penalver first arrived in the country in November 2013. He was a refugee from Cuba. After getting his social security card, he immediately signed up for ESOL classes with the CARIBE Refugee Program. Manuel already has some knowledge of the English language, having lived in Spain for a few years. Manuel has a high level of literacy as he completed his bachelor’s degree in Microbiology in Cuba. It did not take long for him to complete level 7 of ESOL. Manuel knew then that his hard work was just starting. After completing ESOL, he immediately signed up for the Laboratory Medical Technician Program at Erwin Technical College. With the help of the CARIBE Refugee Program, Adult and Community Services Center, Federal Student Aide (FAFSA) and Hillsborough County Social Services, he was able to pay for the entire Laboratory Medical Technician Program. While going to Erwin Technical College, he was hired by the CARIBE Refuge Program as a part-time paraprofessional. This helped pay for his everyday living expenses and buy a used car. He was able to complete the Laboratory Medical Technician Program at the shortest time possible while earning high grades in all his courses.

Manuel Penalver Tadeo is now a full time Laboratory Medical Technician at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa. He not only serves as a laboratory technician at the hospital, he also serves as the lead technician in his department and is also in charge of training all newly hired laboratory technicians. He is also a proud owner of a new home and a new car. He is also able to travel around the United States during his free time. Manuel started with nothing, but now he is economically stable, and he is a contributing member of his local community. Manuel said, “America is truly the land of opportunity but it would be extremely difficult without the help of social services and Hillsborough County Public Schools.”

Osmany C.

Osmany C. from Cuba was enrolled with CARIBE at Lois and took CASAS test on 9/20/16.He asked for a voucher to attend GED classes and started the GED preparation program in September 2016. In December, he took his exams and passed all subject areas! His counselor, Mireya Cox, suggested he should apply for an A+ Certification course at Erwin Technical College. CARIBE will continue to support Osmany by referring him to the Hillsborough County Social Services at the Hillsborough County Schools Adult Career Service Center to help with the cost of tuition for the A+ Certification.

Kirenia A.

Kirenia A. is a student that came from Cuba in October 2016.  When she first came to class, she was very quiet and shy and refused to participate in oral activities.

As the days went by, Kirenia shared that she had had a very bad experience with an English teacher in her country. Her teacher got very upset with the students when they made mistakes. Because of her teacher, she stopped participating in class and was afraid of speaking English to other people.

After some time at CARIBE, Kirenia realized that her classmates made mistakes but did not feel uncomfortable. So she understood that the English teacher was caring and helping the students, and that the classroom was a safe environment for her to learn. All of the sudden, Kirenia was participating actively in class and finally gained self-confidence and lost her fear of making mistakes.

Kirenia is studying English every day at home and is a very dedicated student. Whenever she has the opportunity, she speaks English. When people offer her help in Spanish, she declines it because she says that she needs to practice English as much as possible. Now Kirenia is able to go everywhere and speak English with anyone with no fear.

Darlin Guerra Diaz

Meeting the 24 year-old Cuban Darlin Guerra Diaz might give you the impression that she is all smiles, but underneath that facade there is this strong-willed and determined student who has always had her eyes and mind set on one target — becoming a doctor.

The elder of two siblings, Guerra is the daughter of Sonia and Roberto. Born and raised in Matanzas, Cuba, her parents worked very hard to give their children decent conditions and good education. Darlin loved spending time with her grandmother, and when she got sick, Guerra was by her side day and night, taking care of her. This experience led her to pursue her interest in the field of medicine.

Although her mother is an experienced dental hygienist and her father a well-seasoned English teacher, they haven’t been able to continue working in their respective fields for many reasons. Cultural shock, language barrier, and other unfortunate personal and family events have emotionally crippled her family. Darlin has had to steer the wheel for the entire family to support them financially. She drove her parents to work and school, she attended her younger brother’s PTA meetings, and she got up every day at 4:30 a.m. to go to work. After her shift, she would drive miles to attend school. It was a huge sacrifice on her part, but it didn’t decrease her perseverance and determination. When in class, she would always find time to help her colleagues, making lots of friends along the way.

Her unwavering desire to learn and pursue her dreams paid off when she got accepted into a local community college to continue studying medicine. She is over the moon. In her own words, “I struggled, worked my fingers to the bone, and studied hard. I believed in my dream when it seemed like a far-fetched reality. I’m so glad I didn’t give up.” I hope her story serves as an inspiration to other refugees and immigrants like her. It has been a sincere pleasure to be the one to share it.

Pearson ELT would like to thank Scott Cohen, Manager, Curriculum and Instruction at Bergen Community College at Hackensack, NJ; and Ronald Allan Cruz, the Coordinator of the CARIBE Refugee Program in Tampa, FL for generously allowing us to share their students’ success stories.