News & Blog: Learner Stories


Chad Patton, Director of our Customized Workplace English program, spoke with Zina about her story. 

Zina speaks four languages, is raising two boys with her husband, and has a goal of becoming a nurse “so I can help people [and] help my family.” She also happens to be an Iraqi refugee who immigrated to the United States by way of Sweden.Zina copy

Like many other immigrants, Zina learned how to speak and understand English through watching television. I first met Zina when she came to the Literacy Center to further advance her literacy skills. She enrolled in our advanced English language classes and quickly “graduated” by reaching above a 9th grade reading level.

Zina is now enrolled in classes at Grand Rapids Public Schools’ Beckwith Adult Education where she is working on her GED. After one semester of classes, Zina is almost ready to take her GED tests and work toward a career as a nurse.

Zina lives with her husband and two boys. She supports her sons in everything they do – even if that means supporting her oldest son’s drumming career, whose skills landed him a spot in a Nickelodeon commercial. Zina is also happy that she can help her sons with their homework, and that they have an opportunity to succeed in the United States.

Once in a while, Zina will call to make sure I know how she is doing in class. Every time she calls, she reports that she is one step closer to her goal. The assets that she brings to this country and this community are invaluable and I have no doubt that she is going to be an excellent nurse.

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