Irma Gonzalez was orphaned at the age of eight. She had to drop out of school in the second grade to help provide for her siblings. She came to the U.S. 20 years ago and was nonliterate in her native language. Irma began attending OLC classes through a pilot program at a Tyson plant in April of 2016. When she first started coming to class she did not speak any English. She and her instructor we were only able to communicate through a few Spanish words and the help of Google Translate. She came to class prepared with a few sheets of paper and a pocket dictionary that has survived floods and fires, and only has a fraction of the pages left. She didn’t know what the words in the dictionary said, but she has been studying them since she was a girl.
Irma and her teacher Brandi began with the English alphabet. Within two weeks, Irma recognized every letter and their sounds. She and Brandi both cried when she had all 26 letters. In the following weeks, she began sounding out words. Irma was beginning to read! This 57 year old woman read her first words at 5 A.M., an hour before her shift started, and after a night of raising three of her grandchildren. Irma and Brandi now have basic conversations and Irma is picking up more vocabulary each day. She practices her reading skills with children’s books that she reads with her eight year old granddaughter every night. She says hello to her coworkers who don’t speak Spanish. She tells Brandi she loves her every morning when they part ways. On Tuesday, June 28, Irma made her first doctor’s appointment by herself. She went in and filled out the forms, in English, for the first time unassisted. The things many people can take for granted, like being able to do simple tasks without having to ask for help, are now becoming a possibility for Irma.
Irma attends ESL class at the Tyson plant at 4:30 in the morning before she starts her 12 hour shift. At the end of her shift, she goes home and takes care of three children and her household. Without this program, she wouldn’t have a chance to take an English class. 4:30 in the morning is the only extra time she has; she is far too busy to attend class at any other time.
Carlos Giraldo moved to Northwest Arkansas from Medellin, Colombia 18 years ago. He has been married for 17 years, and while working full time at Rockline Industries, he studied at John Brown University where he earned an undergraduate degree in business and his MBA. Like many Colombians, Carlos is passionate about “fύtbol” and sports in general. He is also one of the top Racquetball players in the state of Arkansas, and in his spare time, he enjoys reading and spending time with his family.
Life was not easy when Carlos first arrived in the U.S. Fortunately, he has been blessed with a lot of support throughout his time in this country. In particular, he remembers very fondly his time spent at the Ozark Literacy Council in Fayetteville, AR. His English was limited when he first immigrated to America, and many English as a Second Language classes offered by the major schools in the state would have prevented him from working full-time; a luxury he couldn’t afford.
After taking all the English courses at the Jones Center, the local Community College, and NTI, Carlos found that his English was still a work in progress, and required a more advanced and personalized touch. After some research, he discovered that the Ozark Literacy Council offered personal tutors at a schedule that fit his lifestyle. The OLC put Carlos on a waiting list, and after a short period of time, he was paired with a tutor. Carlos met two or three times a week with his tutor, and their private conferences allowed him to practice his English on a more detailed level and cover topics he was not comfortable discussing in a larger setting. These one-on-one sessions allowed Carlos to develop a close relationship with his tutor, Dick, and he is enormously grateful for the commitment Dick showed in furthering Carlos’ future. After spending several months with his tutor, Carlos’ English skills improved to the point that he was confident enough to enroll in college courses, paving the pathway for the success he enjoys today.
Carlos is now a proud U.S. citizen and, just this past year, was able to vote for the first time in a presidential election! He was thrilled about that. He still works at Rockline Industries as a Supply Chain Manager for the Arkansas division, and he has been with the company for twelve years. Carlos is a very driven individual, and he aspires to continue to his growth to the highest position he can obtain in any organization.
My name is Susie Boggs. When I was about 9 years old I went to Conway, AR to school. When I was older I went to Lifestyles in Fayetteville. I am still partnered with Lifestyles and I have a case worker. Now I’ve got a job, and I live on my own with my cat, Molly. I am a house-keeper at Walmart Optical, and I have been there 14 years. Every Tuesday I come to OLC Reading Class. Margaret and Shelley are my teachers. Dictated by Susie Boggs; transcribed by Margaret Kraemer.
Gerardine came to Fayetteville in October of 2015 to reunite with her husband, who is attending the University of Arkansas – Fayetteville. A few days after her arrival she took a placement test at Ozark Literacy Council and scored “low beginning” on the test. Shortly after her arrival she started attending Barbara Parker’s evening class.
Since Gerardine arrived in October 2015, in addition to studying at OLC, Gerardine has applied for and taken a substituting position at a local preschool, is studying for the TOEFL exam, and is preparing to take her driver’s license exam.
A few weeks ago, when it was for time for Gerardine to take a test at OLC again, she was a little nervous and asked Barbara what she should study. Barbara told her that she had the knowledge to do very well on the test and she just needed to relax before and during the test in order to do well. She achieved an “advanced” level on the test!
My name is Veronica. I am married and have one daughter. Four years ago, we left Mexico with a broken heart – no family, no friends, and no jobs in Arkansas. We lost our way of life, but everything has its rewards. In the beginning, it was very difficult, but we progressed step by step.
A year and half ago, I found Ozark Literacy Council. OLC has very professional people; they always work very hard and give a lot for us. Our school is amazing because we have people from different countries and cultures. We are one big family because we are learning English and a new culture.
My daughter, Samantha, is ten years old. She is very active in her school, and she loves her Gifted and Talented classes. She has very good grades, and her English has improved a lot compared to how much she knew four years ago. Samantha is the reason why we are here struggling. We are seeking a better education for her and us. My goal now is to go to the University for an MBA . I feel more confident thanks to OLC.
I started reading lessons in 1996 because I wanted to read newspaper ads. I wanted to get a driver’s license and a better job. I’ve had a lesson almost every week since 1996. I take cooking lessons, like to go on cruises, and am involved in bowling, baseball, running, and church. I work now as a janitor at Walton Arts Center, and I get to go to some of the shows. I read better than I did, but still need to improve. I enjoy my lessons at OLC.
My name is Nouketcheussi, and I come from Cameroon. My country is very beautiful, and the people of Cameroon are warm and welcoming to all. My wife and I and our four children came to the United States from a special program in my country. At first, we thought to experience immediately the American Dream. But this was not so easy as we first believed.
Both my wife and I had taken English classes in Cameroon. We thought we knew well the language of the great American people. However, when we arrived, we were surprised by how little we understood. It was impossible to live our dream when we could not understand those who were speaking all around us. By our very good fortune, we learned about Ozark Literacy Council, and immediately signed up for classes. This good habit has helped us to help our children with their schooling, and it also helped me to understand people. Now I have a job*, and my wife is training for a job as well. Now that we can understand the expressions of the people around us, we can live the American dream and help other people at the same time.
*Nouketcheussi works for the Arkansas Support Network. His wife Christine is receiving PRN training.
I’m Rohani, and I’m here from Indonesia. My husband came here when he received a U of A Fulbright scholarship. When my baby was six months old, we came here to join him. I wasn’t sure what to expect. Back home in my country, I used to watch Hollywood movies. I thought of America in terms of big cities, crowded places, and people wearing fancy dresses. However, when I first got here, I felt amazed by the country and landscape of the Natural State. Here in Arkansas, everything is completely different. I see woods. I see big roads, but less traffic than I expected. Also, people here are very friendly, and religious, too. In my mind, I thought America was a secular country, and Americans didn’t really have the value of belief. At Ozark Literacy Council, I mingle with different people from all over the world. It makes me feel humble, open-minded, and more respectful of others’ beliefs. I have made many new friends, and we have established strong relationships inside and outside of class. I see a lot of good inside the hearts of Americans, especially the people of Arkansas.