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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