Yoli: Becoming a citizen and a leader
Yoli at her U.S. citizenship ceremony
Yoli, a single mom from Mexico with a 5th grade education, has been in the U.S. for over 20 years. In her job as an entry-level tailor at Ace Custom Tailors, her supervisors recognized her as a natural leader with the potential to take on more responsibility. It was now a matter of acquiring the communication skills she would need to realize her full potential.
Thanks to her employer and ENGLISH @ WORK, Yoli participated in approximately 90 hours of customized English language instruction. During the course of the program, Yoli not only became a supervisor at the Davenport Village location, but just before completing classes, she became a U.S. citizen.
After Yoli acquired her citizenship, Ace Custom Tailors asked her to open their brand new location on South Lamar. Yoli is now the “face and voice” of the new store—the one who greets customers at the door, makes phone calls and confirms pricing for each job. Of the ENGLISH @ WORK program, Yoli says, “What I learned in class I use at work, in stores, on the street. It has made everything better.”
Silvain: Connecting with family and community
John (Silvain’s son), Maile (E@W’s Executive Director), and Silvain
When Silvain came to the U.S. 20 years ago, he left his heart in Haiti. He embraced his new home, but he had been unable to bring his family with him. Supporting his family and finding a way to bring them to the U.S. became his primary goals. As he worked toward resolution, Silvain’s life revolved around his job as a housekeeper at Seton Medical Center and his church.
Up until 2010, learning English had been a part of Silvain’s life, but he didn’t feel it was really “his” language. Then he began to study English through ENGLISH @ WORK’s program at Seton. His courses not only helped him with his job responsibilities, but also inspired him to become a part of his community in meaningful ways.
When the earthquake struck Haiti in 2010, Silvain’s wife and each of his 3 children escaped unharmed, but they found themselves living in a Port au Prince tent city. With the help of his church, Silvain wrote a letter to Rep. Lloyd Doggett to ask for help in reuniting with his family here in Austin. As a result, two of his children are now here, and there is hope that his wife and daughter can join them next year. Silvain has also become an integral part of the ENGLISH @ WORK family as a distinguished ambassador who attends events and shares his experiences. Silvain says that after his classes at Seton, he feels that English is now “his” language.
Antonia: Becoming Doña “Good Morning!”
Antonia (second from the left) with her classmates and teachers
Antonia, a housekeeper at the Hilton Garden Inn, was known as “Doña Buenos Días!” because of the exuberant way in which she greeted her coworkers every morning. Antonia is a natural leader and communicator who was strongly motivated to expand her job skills. Unfortunately, she lacked the English communication skills she needed to reach her goals.
The Hilton Garden Inn offered Antonia the chance to attend ENGLISH @ WORK’s in-house courses. Near the end of the program, her employers gave her the opportunity to train in the kitchen—a first step toward working in the banquet services department.
Improved English skills allowed Antonia to cross train, which paved the way to a more public-facing position in food service and making her a more valuable worker to her employer. Antonia also became a champion of ENGLISH @ WORK’s classes and an inspiration to her peers. At each end-of-course ceremony, Antonia wowed the crowd with her motivational speeches. And as her English skills increased, Antonia’s coworkers began to refer to her as “Doña Good Morning!”—a great indication that English is now an integral part of her life.
Erlinda: A Story of Strength
By the time Erlinda reached the age of 23, civil war had ravaged her home country, El Salvador, and cost thousands of Salvadorans their lives, including her best friend. Tired of living in a constant struggle between fear and the unknown, she moved to the United States with little knowledge of the English language or U.S. culture. She was only certain of one thing – she had to make something of herself.
She spent the next few years working as a saleswoman in native Spanish-speaking communities in California. Although English was not necessary for her job at the time, she felt terrible every time she had difficulty understanding when others spoke English. She knew the clock was ticking and one day she would have to learn English.
A move to Austin and a job opportunity at Seton Southwest Hospital brought her to the ENGLISH @ WORK program in 2011. She was ready not only to improve her English, but she told herself after her ENGLISH @ WORK graduation that she had to keep on going. She had to strive for more.
The more panned out and shortly after her ENGLISH @ WORK graduation we learned that Erlinda took the U.S. Citizenship test and PASSED! She says ENGLISH @ WORK helped her to improve her English, but we can’t take full credit. Erlinda is strong, intelligent, and extremely dedicated to whatever she takes on and is a perfect example of why we do the work that we do. All she needed was a bit of help with her language skills and her dreams took full flight!