Below, in her own words with minor editing, is Alejandra’s story.
My story is not too different from other people who immigrated to this great nation. I was born in Tegucigalpa, Honduras in Central America. In that country it is so difficult to move forward because of the poor economic situation and the criminal and gang activities that make this beautiful country a dangerous place to live. Becoming a single mom after six years of marriage, I found myself in a challenging and dangerous situation and had to make the difficult decision to immigrate to the United States of America. When I came here, I left behind my four-year old daughter Genesis and my dream to be a psychologist That was not an easy decision but I had the idea that I could do something for my daughter and me – for both our lives.
Soon after getting to the United States I was arrested and sent to a detention center. Thinking about being detained for three months was devastating and at that moment I felt I would die. I had had a hard and traumatic adolescence, but this experience in prison made me lose my confidence, and it broke my spirit. Thanks to my grandmother and aunt I was eventually released from detention. When I was freed, I started to work first and second shifts. I worked so hard with the sole intention of bringing my little daughter Genesis to me. In my free time I tried to learn English, and I applied to a university to try to continue my education. The door to a college education was closed to me because I did not have the language or the support to find the resources. So, once again I decided to leave behind my dream of continuing to study. Instead, I concentrated on working to pay for my legal documentation and bringing my daughter to this country.
In 2005 the fruits of my labors were realized as I became a Permanent Resident of the United States. Now I had the opportunity to go to my country to see my daughter, who at that time was 7 years old, and to try to get a legal visa to bring her to this country. The whole trauma took a long year, but in 2006 I obtained a resident card for Genesis. I began a new cycle of my life with my daughter and my fiancé Ronny, who is now my husband. In a short time I was pregnant with my second daughter, and in 2007 Isabella was born. In 2009 Ronny and I decided to move to North Carolina to try to find a tranquil way of life.
In 2013 I found myself tired and unhappy with where I was in my life and with the work I was doing. I made a decision to come back to school to learn English at Blue Ridge Community College in their ESL program. There I found again the ghost that has been following me for my whole student life: a learning disability named dyslexia. But this time I decided not to hide anymore - I decided to learn English and not to be beaten by this disability. While in that program, I heard about individual tutoring that was offered at Blue Ridge Literacy Council. I was lucky the Coordinator of the ESL program, Cindy Jefferson, was such a nice woman, and she spoke Spanish. That way I had the opportunity to explain my disability and express the needs that I had. I remember this was the first time in my life that I recognized that I needed help and that the dyslexia was interfering when I tried to learn this language. After she finished listening, intently and calmly to everything that I said, Cindy made an appointment for me to take a reading test. A short time later she introduced me to my new tutor, Kathryn Rodgers.
This extraordinary woman became a key piece of my future success. Everything began with three hours a week of tutoring. On one occasion I expressed some of my frustrations to Kathryn and she realized that I was feeling upset because I thought I would never be able to realize my academic goals. I believed then, that at 30 years old, my opportunity to study was over. But Cindy and Kathryn encouraged me to use other resources that were available at Blue Ridge Community College and helped me as I pursued my goals. Over the next several months, I passed the GED test, completed the Career Readiness Certificate, and gained admission to the Certified Nurse Aide I (CNA I) course that was offered at the College. By the spring of 2014, I had earned the CNA I Certificate, passed the Nurse Aide I State Registry exam, and had secured a job in a retirement facility.
After hours and hours of hard work both with my tutor and by myself, I started 2014 as a more secure and confident woman because of the support I have received and the gains I have made. I am glad I found this amazing organization – Blue Ridge Literacy Council is a wonderful resource in this community. They offer free tutoring, using volunteers, to give Henderson County residents who want it, the opportunity to advance and grow academically and personally. I appreciate Blue Ridge Literacy Council, Cindy Jefferson, Kathryn Rodgers and all those who make it possible for this program to continue to be available.
Postscript 10/2015: Alejandra was BRLC’s ESL Student of the Year 2014
To further enhance her job skills, Alejandra completed the Medication Aide course at Blue Ridge Community College and is currently studying for the state certification exam. She also has a better job that she loves working in a hospice facility.