mother’s story with us below:
My mom was only 16 years old when she journeyed alone to the United States from Guatemala to escape political instability and seek opportunities to help her parents. Throughout her childhood, her family struggled with hunger and hardship. She attended school for four months, but she got sick and never returned. My mom was needed more at home where she initially cooked and cleaned for the family. As she grew older, she worked in the fields harvesting beans, corn, and potatoes.
When my mom came to the United States, working in the farms came naturally to her—that was all she knew. She never had any opportunities to work elsewhere. She got her first job picking grapes when she arrived in California. Then she moved to Florida to pick tomatoes, and then to Virginia to pick beans, cabbage, and cucumbers. She met my dad when she returned to Florida. He was also from Guatemala, so they decided to move back to start a life together under his parents’ roof. My sister, Deybi, and I were born shortly afterward.
“My mom has learned more words. She is able to write and read much better. She can make appointments, ask questions over the phone, and understand when the school calls and leaves important messages. Additionally, when she goes to the doctor or the clinic, she can finally understand what they say to her.
When my mom first came to America, she was granted political asylum. However, it expired when she went back to Guatemala. She was finally able to make her case to apply for residency when she returned to the U.S. in 2000. My mom prayed and prayed for my sister and me to be granted residency, even if she was not. However, my dad was the first, then my sister and me, and then finally her.
Life was difficult in the U.S. not being able to speak English. Her employment options were very limited and she was unable to help us with our homework. Our Aunt Aura recommended a family literacy program for homework help. We went a few times, and I remember liking it, but when we moved away, we were unable to continue the program.
While my mom was pregnant with my brother, Eliceo, she returned to the family literacy program as a nursery volunteer. When Eliceo was old enough, she began Beginnings 101 with him, and she started taking English classes in the Adult Education program. After Beginnings 101, my mom and Eliceo enrolled in the Mom and Tot literacy program, which offers intensive English language classes for mothers while their children engage in coursework that prepares them for school at a level with their peers. For the past three years, my mom has continued with the program to learn how to communicate with others who do not speak Spanish and to gain the necessary English skills to become a U.S. citizen. Because of the program, she not only can help our brother with his homework, but she can also read with him!
My mom says the program is helping her in so many ways. She has learned more words. She is able to write and read much better. She can make appointments, ask questions over the phone, and understand when the school calls and leaves important messages. Additionally, when she goes to the doctor or the clinic, she can finally understand what they say to her.
This experience has helped my brother in so many ways as well. Because of it, Eliceo is very different from me. He reads and is a lot more active than I was at his age. Eliceo was also read to a lot sooner, so he was much more prepared for school than I was. In fact, his teacher recently told my mom that my brother is a very good student. He is not timid like I was; he has a lot of confidence in himself and he’s very friendly. My mom strongly believes that everything Eliceo has achieved is because of the support of the family literacy program. She says she was an ignorant mother before. She was not able to read a book to the other kids, but she could to him. The other night Eliceo perfectly read a book on his own. My mom was so proud and surprised. He knows so much.
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