Writing Class in the Time of Coronavirus

Like our other classes, the Advanced Writing Class taught by NYU Gallatin Professor June Foley continued online this spring and recently had their final class of the school year, a screen shot of which is above. Thank you to June, her student assistants Kristi and James, and her students for persisting through these tough times. Below is a story by Afroza Yasmin about her experience with coronavirus which will be included in the upcoming writing class collection:

My Days of Coronavirus

Afroza Yasmin

From the beginning, we were very alert about Covid-19. When people couldn’t find masks, gloves, or hand sanitizers in the grocery store in my neighborhood, I had already collected these necessary items, including disinfecting wipes, alcohol, hand soaps, etc.

In early March, my daughter came home from medical school in Pennsylvania during spring break. One day, she started reading online about the coronavirus. At that time, the first few cases had started in the Bronx, Harlem, and Westchester. She told me that this virus would go into every household. So she advised that I go shopping right away, to buy those kinds of things. I realized that maybe two years ago, Jon, my teacher at University Settlement, showed the film Contagion in class. So I thought this virus was going to spread like the pandemic in the movie. I was shocked and fearful, so I ran to the supermarket, bought those items and also bought some groceries from the grocery store.

Then we stayed home as much as possible. Sometimes, my husband would take some of the food and give it to his family, friends, and our neighbors though drive-in. When he went outside, he always wore a mask and gloves. At that time, our daughter had exams, so she went back to Pennsylvania.

A few days later, in the middle of March, my husband was sick. He had a high fever, coughing, and a light breathing problem. Then, after a few days, our two sons and I were also sick. We didn’t take a test, but we looked online, and we had symptoms of the coronavirus, so we made some video calls with our doctors. They gave us cough medicines and antibiotics and also advised us that we had to stay home for two weeks. We took the medicines. My sons and I felt a little better, but my husband didn’t recover; his symptoms kept coming back.

I know these kinds of symptoms. Sometimes the medicine doesn’t work, so we decided that we would do some homemade therapy, like warm water with lemon and honey, clove powder and black seed powder, and also some ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves, black seeds, and cardamom, made into a drink, like tea. We drank this at least two times a day. Also, I put a pot of steaming water into my bed and we covered ourselves with blankets at least three times a day. This type of treatment uses breathing exercises of inhaling and exhaling with hot boiling water. In addition, we gargled three times a day, with some salt or alcohol in a glass of hot water. After those kinds of treatments, everybody was recovering.

Now it is the month of Ramadan. We are fasting and enjoying it. Now we stay home as much as possible. We have to be grateful that we are all still breathing and active. Every now and then, I go outside my apartment, and I hear the sound of sirens coming from the ambulances on every corner. But there is still hope. I hope everybody enjoys a happy and healthy life at this moment. Stay safe and be strong in this crisis.

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Today is Memorial Day

American War Cemetery in Italy
Many veterans are buried abroad, near where they died during battle. Pictured is an American cemetery in Impruneta, Italy. – Atlantide Phototravel/Corbis

Memorial Day is an American holiday, observed on the last Monday of May, honoring the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. Memorial Day 2020 occurs on Monday, May 25. 

Originally known as Decoration Day, it originated in the years following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971. Many Americans observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries or memorials, holding family gatherings and participating in parades. Unofficially, it marks the beginning of the summer season.

from History.com

Click here to read more!

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Student. Immigrant. Essential Worker.

Here’s another student story highlighting the importance of adult literacy and why the City Council and mayor need to maintain funding for adult literacy at $12 million per year2.2 million New Yorkers like Felix, whose story is below, need adult education!

My name is Felix Gomez, and I’m from Bogota, Colombia. In Colombia, I used to work as head of inventory security in a multinational company named Home Center and I studied business administration specializing in financial risk. But because of safety and economic reasons, I decided to leave my country and come to the U.S. I came here alone in 2018 but later my mother came here and now we live together.

I love New York. I like the atmosphere, I like the people, I like the public transportation. I like that people respect others and don’t care what others do. It’s an open-minded city. I feel safe, I feel relaxed. There are a lot of opportunities to grow, to study. I like the different seasons. I like it all. I love this city.

When I arrived here I couldn’t work in the same field that I worked in in Colombia but I had to make money. So I started to work as a dishwasher, and after that as a busser, after that as a barback, and also as a cashier at Penn Station. But then the coronavirus came and the businesses closed.

My boyfriend is a nurse in the hospital and he told me that they needed people to work there in the housekeeping department and help in the emergency room. So I went there and had an interview in Spanish and English and I got a job as an emergency room assistant.  

When the ambulances call the hospital they tell them what the patient needs, and when the patient arrives in critical condition, there’s a list of information including the room and equipment and then we help bring them to the correct place and get them what they need.

In this hospital the doctors and nurses don’t speak Spanish or only speak a little Spanish, so when they call us everything’s in English. For example, they say, “Hey, Felix! I need napkins! I need cleaner! I need the respiration machine!”

I’ve worked there for two months, during the most critical times of the coronavirus. It was a heavy, sad atmosphere with a lot of protocols and anxiety but at the same time with the support of the city. Because every day at seven everyone applauded in support of everyone who works in the hospital. This was beautiful.

I feel very good in this job, and now I think I’d like to study to become a nurse. I believe it’s a very interesting career and it’s a profession in which you need a lot of love, a lot of passion and a lot of desire and dedication to work. So after getting my papers and improving my English, my next step is to study nursing.

I think that in the United States and in New York the possibilities for Latinos is very good, but it’s really necessary to speak English well and it’s necessary to have structured and formal classes. A friend of mine told me about the University Settlement Adult Literacy Program and that it was a good program, one that requires persistence and dedication, and I started last fall. I’ve learned and I’ve advanced and thanks to these small advances I could get a job in the hospital. I’m grateful for this because in this pandemic I could get a job that makes it possible for me to support my family.

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Student. Teacher. Census Worker. Supermom.

We’d like to share a student story with you all highlighting the importance of adult literacy and why’s important for the City Council and mayor to maintain funding for adult literacy at $12 million per year. 2.2 million New Yorkers like Lifen, whose story is below, need adult education!

My name is Lifen Wu. I come from Guangdong, China. I just finished junior high school in China when I was 16 years old and then I went abroad to South America. I went there because we were poor. So I went to South America and worked as a waitress in my uncle’s restaurant. Life there was challenging and interesting and I was willing to explore the new culture.

I came to the United States in 2017 for the air quality and education, both for my children and for me. I think there are a lot of opportunities in the United States. Even though I am married and have children there are still a lot of opportunities to improve myself.

This spring I got a job as a census worker with the Cooper Square Committee. Our Adult Literacy counselor Mayra helped me to prepare my resume and prepare for the interview. They were hiring two people, one person who spoke Spanish and English and one who spoke Chinese and English, and they hired me.

I thought I would speak more Chinese in this job but I speak a lot of English. We call people to make sure they’re doing okay during the coronavirus and to ask if they’ve completed the census. When we call people it’s an unlisted number, so some people were suspicious and didn’t want to answer my questions. I was working hard but felt sad because I didn’t know how to deal with different kinds of native English speakers. So I asked my manager to give send me all of the scripts, and I printed them all out and studied and studied and these really helped me. The manager thanked me for doing a good job and for all my preparation.

At the same time we’re all doing online learning at home. I have two kids in junior high school and three in elementary school. My two junior high school children can do their homework independently, but my three little ones can’t do anything independently, it’s all my job. It’s crazy! But fortunately my online English classes are similar to my children’s online classes—we all use Google Classroom and video conferencing and everything—so I could get settled in easily. So I need to thank University Settlement because before I didn’t know anything about Google Classroom or how to turn in work. So I feel like I’ve been able to get settled into online learning easier than other parents. And now I’m helping parents in my neighborhood with online classes because I have the experience at University Settlement.   

I recently found out I passed the TASC test! I still can’t believe it! Before I came to University Settlement, I didn’t know anything about High School Equivalency (HSE). So I came to the Adult Literacy Program office and they told me the correct way to take the test. I just finished junior high school in China so I still have my college dream. I want to go to college. I’m still looking for my major, but I realize I really like to serve the community and help people.

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$12 Million for Adult Literacy!

This week we had the pleasure to speak with City Council Members Carlos Menchaca and Justin Brannan and the staff of City Council Members Carlina Rivera and Margaret Chin about the importance of adult literacy, especially in these trying times. Our students need English classes to get jobs, get better jobs, help their children with their learning, live independently in New York, and to help others! We’re asking that the New York City Council to maintain current funding for adult literacy at $12 million per year. Along with the New York Immigration Coalition, we’re also asking for continued legal services and emergency cash grants for immigrant New Yorkers.

To learn more, click here!

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