Angelica has dreams for herself. She wants to get her GED, and she wants to learn how to speak fluent English so that she can get a good job. But at twenty-two years of age with two children, achieving her goals is no small feat.
Angelica was born in Chicago, Illinois after her parents immigrated there in search of better opportunities. But after years of difficulty finding jobs, they decided to return to Mexico when Angelica was four years old.
It was in Mexico that she received all of her education, and she made it through the 10th grade. She met her husband and, at 18 years old, she got pregnant. It was then that Angelica and her husband decided to move back to the U.S. for better career and educational opportunities. “When you have a child and no education, it’s really hard to find jobs in Mexico,” she explains. Once in the U.S., she promised herself she would get her GED and get a good job.
Living in Oregon, they had rent and bills to pay, so she felt obligated to find work instead of pursuing her GED. But without strong English skills, she couldn’t find a stable job. They survived on her husband’s income. He worked as an assistant driver delivering construction materials.
“It’s hard to be here. But it’s very hard to be in Mexico. We are here for the kids, and the education here is better than in Mexico.”
Angelica and her husband now have two children together; a four-year-old son named Angel and a two-year-old daughter named Valerie. Angelica spent her time taking care of their kids — a full-time job in itself — which didn’t leave her any time to pursue her GED or to learn English.
When Angelica heard about our Early Childhood Education Program, a bilingual preschool program offered to low-income Latino families, she enrolled both of her children into the program. Her daughter is now in our Early Head Start program and her son is in our Preschool program. Since they don’t have family nearby — and childcare can be very expensive — Angelica says this was a great option for them.
In Angel’s preschool class, his teachers started to notice that he was having speech problems. When he was two years old, they got him started with a speech therapist who began helping him develop both English and Spanish in the right way. Norma Hernandez, Angel’s teacher, says that he has been constantly progressing and gaining more vocabulary.
“ Valerie and Angel love the teachers and the school. The teachers support them a lot. This is something that, as a parent, makes me happy and comfortable,” says Angelica.
With both of her children in preschool classes until 2pm during the week, Angelica had more time for herself. She knew she could use this free time to work on getting her GED and to learn English. She could reach higher. She learned about our Adult Education Program, decided to enroll, and began taking GED and ESL classes.
Angelica’s classroom is only a few steps away from Angel’s. While Angel finger-paints and learns the Alphabet, Angelica practices math equations for GED preparation and works on basic English conversations.
Angelica and her husband also enrolled in our parenting class. “As young parents, the classes have helped us a lot.”
Angelica is gradually learning to speak more English. “She is working a lot towards her goal. In this course she has passed three GED exams: science, social studies and language art. At the end of May, she will be taking her math exam and will probably get her GED diploma,” says Yasi Lemus Isla, our Adult Education Program Manager.
Angelica isn’t sure what type of career she wants to pursue. Right now, she’s focused on learning. She wants to learn more and more English and plans to attend college after she completes her GED.
“We know we have potential,” says Angelica, “and education helps us go higher. We are empowered when we have education because we are the voice of our children, and we are voices for other women.”