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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Speaking at City Hall

Yesterday two University Settlement Adult Literacy Program students, Jie Ling and Ivan, along with one staff member, Mayra, spoke at City Hall in support of more funding for adult literacy programs in NYC. They spoke before the City Council Committee on Education chaired by Mark Treyger.

Here is Ivan’s testimony:

Testimony for the Committee on Education Oversight Hearing 2/26/2020

Ivan, Student at the University Settlement Adult Literacy Program

Good afternoon everyone. First of all, thank you for giving us this opportunity to speak with you today. We really appreciate it. My name is Ivan. I’m from Madrid, Spain. I’m a Network Engineer and Project Manager, but I’m also a student at University Settlement. I’ve been living in New York for almost 6 months. I had studied English in my country for many years so I thought the language wouldn’t be a problem for me here. Obviously, I was wrong. Since the moment I arrived, I realized that my English wasn’t as good as I thought.

This situation made me feel insecure, worried and overwhelmed. But after a few days handling this feeling, I found information on the internet about free English classes at University Settlement. Then everything changed. University Settlement gave me the opportunity to attend their College and Career Readiness class, where I can learn and practice English in an international environment with a great teacher and staff who are always willing to help us as much as possible. Ever since, I continue improving my English skills every day and I feel more confident speaking the language. Thanks to this, I was recently accepted into the Cooper Union Retraining Program for Immigrant Engineers.

The bottom line is that these classes help students like me to apply for better jobs with good salaries, pay more taxes, be more productive in the community and be able to communicate better with every citizen in this wonderful city. Learning English is synonymous with improving our lives and our communities, and this is possible thanks to the funds the city invests in Adult Education.

Thank you very much.

 

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Albany!

Here are more photos from Albany. Our students went to the state capital last week with other members of the New York City Coalition for Adult Literacy (NYCCAL) to advocate for $25 million in funding for Adult Literacy Education in New York State. We held a rally on the Million Dollar staircase, where in addition to Senator Jessica Ramos and Assembly Members Ron Kim and Pat Fahy, our very own Adult Literacy Program students Lifen and Jose spoke about how important programs like ours are. After the rally we visited state assembly members’ and senators’ offices and to tell them why adult literacy programs need more funding in New York.

To learn more about NYCCAL and what we’re advocating for, click here.

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