Successes ► LEARNER SPOTLIGHT
Doris achieved a huge dream in the fall of 2008: she passed the United States citizenship exam and became a citizen. Doris had studied hard for over a year and also committed many things to memory so she could do well on the test. She continuously practiced answering sample test questions and also practiced conversing in English during weekly sessions with her tutor, Albert Guevara, from The Literacy Connection.
“Even the application questions are very difficult. The test is very, very hard,” she said. With the test struggle behind her now, Doris glows with pride. “This is a nice country. I love it. I am so happy!” she said.
Learning English was key in unlocking her potential and helping her overcome challenges. Doris originally came to the US from Columbia in 2001. She left her 19-year-old son with family to pursue a better future. She dreamed of starting her own business and earning enough money to bring her son to the US to live with her.
But she described the culture shock she experienced initially as overwhelming. She had good administrative skills and had been a successful Avon salesperson and manager in her native country, yet her limited English skills kept her from getting jobs she wanted here in the US.
“Finding a job was terrible. I cried a lot,” Doris said. She said her early employment options were cleaning houses or working in factories, though she wanted an office job.
She worked at various jobs and took English classes off and on during her first several years. Determined to learn English faster and to improve her job opportunities, Doris contacted The Literacy Connection in the fall of 2005. She thought the one-on-one tutoring format they offered would enable her to learn better and quicker. She knew learning more English would help her achieve many goals, old and new.
Doris was matched with tutor Martha Odom in the spring of 2006. She worked with Martha and then another tutor, Diane Drew, until the fall of 2007. Then she began working with tutor Albert Guevara. He incorporated a lot of conversation in their tutoring sessions.
“I knew some words, but I needed help with pronunciation. I still didn’t know the sounds of the alphabet.” She said she needed help putting words together, meanings and correct pronunciation. “It was really important for me,” Doris said. Doris praises her tutor’s teaching methods: “He made it much easier to learn to read and speak English.” She describes examples of taking turns reading paragraphs from books and explaining what was read, word repetition drills, and writing exercises.
She has referred many students to The Literacy Connection. She tells people not to be afraid to learn English and that “tutors are patient and there to help you. English gives people the opportunity to communicate with their children, grandchildren, and families. The young ones are already communicating in English, so we must.”
Albert describes Doris as dedicated and ambitious. Doris had some medical problems during her years working with him. Yet even when she underwent surgery, Doris missed only one tutoring session. She has made great progress. When Doris first came to The Literacy Connection, she scored a 3 on her English oral proficiency test and a 5 on her written proficiency test. Tests now score her at a 7 in oral proficiency and a 6 in written proficiency.
In addition to becoming a wife and a US citizen, Doris’ perseverance in learning and using English also has spelled success in her career. For a few years, she worked at a mortgage company, assisting people with financing their homes. Recently, she became an independent sales consultant for Princess House, a party line specializing in home products for the kitchen, bathroom, and dining room. She works from home and hopes to expand her business in the future by recruiting many additional salespeople to join her team.
Doris continues to work with her literacy tutor once a week and is determined to keep improving her English. She also is still trying to get her son, now 27, into the US. “I won’t give up!” she says.