News & Blog: Learner Stories

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Written by Carrie Roper, IET Coordinator

In the final weeks of June, we celebrated the ending of our two Citizenship Preparation ESL classes. What began as two in-person classes on opposite sides of Grand Rapids soon became a collaborative and experimental response to the communities’ needs during an uncertain time.  

 Written by Carrie Roper, IET Coordinator

Shola GroupShola came to the United Stated from Nepal in 2018 with her husband and their young daughter.  The reason?  To find better opportunities for work and to further her education.  In her home country, going on to higher education, especially in healthcare, can be very expensive.  That is why Shola was excited to hear about the certified nursing assistant (CNA) classes being offered at no cost through Goodwill and the Literacy Center.

Written by Chad Patton, Customized Workplace English Director

For Olivia, Kent District Library (KDL) was a place to check out books and movies and use the computer. But, for Olivia, the library also represented a future career.

“I like the idea to be able to work in the library,” Olivia said.

Guest blogger: Chad Patton, Director of Customized Workplace English

If there were one word to describe Antonio, it would probably be “handy.” Since Michiganders were asked to Stay Home and Stay Safe due to the Coronavirus, Antonio has been taking the time to work around the house.

Jennifer Summers, Customized Workplace English Coordinator

Eliana started classes at the Literacy Center in January of 2018. She had come with her family from Venezuela, and she started classes with her in-laws, Larry and Coromoto. She worked hard and made rapid progress, graduating from the highest levels of our programming by the end of September that year. I recently called and had the opportunity to check in with her.

Guest Blogger: Jennifer Summers, Customized Workplace English Coordinator

Maria Zamudio is a busy woman with a heart for others and a plan to get where she wants to be. She currently works for a law firm, where she helps people in the Hispanic community to address their needs. Her ultimate goal is to be a lawyer in the US so that she can continue serving her community.

Chad Patton, Director of Customized Workplace English, interviewed Debra Hardiman about her experience in the adult reading and writing class at the Literacy Center. 

When Debra Hardiman called the Literacy Center to ask about joining a class, she had to build up the courage to make the call. “I had to take a deep breath before I called,” Debra said.

Gonzalo is a learner in our tutoring program and takes English classes at his children's school with our family literacy program. He wrote about his experience. 

My name is Gonzalo Gonzalez.

I am from Guatemala. I was 19 years old when I came to America. I work for Ventra. I live near Buchanan elementary school. I am married and have 5 children. They are 3-5-7-9 and 11.

Guest blogger: Jennifer Summers, Customized Workplace English Program Coordinator

When we first profiled Ahmed Abdo in January 2017, he was preparing for a plant-wide layoff at work and studying to become a U.S. citizen. Since then, he’s made significant progress toward his goals as he continues to study with both the tutoring and workplace English programs at the Literacy Center. I sat down with him again this month to talk about his journey and his next steps.

Guest Blogger: Rebekah Ewing, Literacy Coordinator

Last week, we celebrated with Pedro de Ingunza Aguilar as he graduated from our Adult Tutoring Program. After just eight months of working alongside his tutor, Julie Gendler, Pedro reached the 9th grade reading level! He reports that now he can communicate better at work, pronounce words better, and understand what people say.

Guest Blogger: Carrie Roper, IET Coordinator

Rosa Chen originally came to the Literacy Center for help with her English language skills. She quickly discovered, however, that we had many additional resources to help her pursue her goals.

Guest Blogger: Chad Patton, Director of the Literacy Center's Customized Workplace English program and Zina's career coach. 

Sitting down for her interview, Zina shows off her new badge from Spectrum Health.

“When I got my badge, [my sons] were so excited. They were kissing it.”

When we last reported on Zina, she was attending Kent ISD’s Beckwith Adult Education with the long-term goal of becoming a nurse. She was doing all of this while raising her two sons with her husband and providing childcare at her sons’ school.

Today, Zina is excited to talk about her accomplishments. As of late, she has many. She is now a mother of three, she has a new certification, and she has a new job.

Guest blogger: Emilio Nieto, Literacy Center’s Recruitment and Retention Specialist and Class Instructor

Charles came to the Literacy Center of West Michigan to improve his reading and writing skills. In his early career, Charles was skilled in electronic and computer work. Despite having difficulty reading manuals, he figured out how to do the work by trial and error. This allowed him to mask his difficulties with reading.

Fatos, Apo, and their two sons moved to the United States from Istanbul. Before coming here, Fatos and Apo were business partners in their home country. Given her experience as a business owner, Fatos was able to quickly spot a need in West Michigan’s business community.

“When I came to here… I did not see that a restaurant had fresh and homemade food.”

Together, they began to design their restaurant and café: Café de Miro. However, they faced a few barriers.

“I can’t open one of these stores,” Fatos says, “because I don’t speak English too well.” That’s when Fatos and Apo came to the Literacy Center.

Written by Jennifer Summers, Customized Workplace English Coordinator

When Larry and Coromoto visited the U.S. in 2017, they planned to stay for 15 days. However, the instability in their home country of Venezuela was worsening by the day, and their son, a doctor who had been practicing medicine here for 20 years, persuaded them to stay in Grand Rapids.

Salvador Geron wrote this article for our Spring 2019 edition of The Reader, our learner/tutor newsletter. Salvador and his tutor, Gerri, have been working together since October 2018.

If I could have three wishes they would be the following:

For my 1st wish is that poverty would disappear in the world, because I see people who have nothing to eat.

My 2nd wish would be to remove the hatred people have about the differences of races. People should be able to see each other regardless of the color of their skin, and help each other.

By Olivia Montero, a recent graduate from our Adult Tutoring Program. She and her tutor, Tim Bolema, worked together from May 2017 until she graduated in August 2018. Olivia wrote this story for our Fall 2018 edition of The Reader, our newsletter of learner writing. 

I recently became interested in eating healthy foods. I have been thinking of having a garden. Then a friend told me about a place where there is a community garden sponsored by church. I was able to rent a small plot. I was very excited because I have a garden of my own.

Blogger: Carrie Roper, Literacy Coordinator

Monika Skripal’s motivation for practicing her English language skills always comes back to one thing: family. As the mother of Monika Skripaltwo young daughters, Monika is using her English daily to advocate for their needs and to support their education. In fact, it was through their school – West Godwin Elementary – that Monika first heard about the parent-focused English classes offered through the Literacy Center’s Family Literacy Program.

For Lili and her husband Omary, literacy is a family affair.

The couple, both born in the Congo, struggled to find jobs in West Michigan that would support their family of five and Lili Photo copy copyprovide meaningful work. They each felt that their English literacy levels limited their ability to work in their desired fields—Omary as an electrician and Lili in healthcare. 

That’s when Omary discovered the Literacy Center. He enrolled in the Construction Core program, a partnership with the Literacy Center and Grand Rapids Community College’s M-TEC. Soon after, Lili enrolled in a similar class for Certified Nurse Aid (CNA). Both of these classes taught the necessary job skills with the support of an English language instructor from the Literacy Center.

A Second Chance at a Dream: Rachida's Story

Written by Carrie Roper (Literacy Coordinator)

Rachida was born in Algeria, and always dreamt of working in the very competitive healthcare field in her country. Instead, RachidaRachida graduated with a degree in Marketing and took a position as an administrative assistant in the Ministry of Environment and Renewable Energy.

When Rachida moved to Grand Rapids in December of 2017 to join her husband, she saw an opportunity to change her career. It was a second chance for her dream: to start from the beginning of her journey into the healthcare field.

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