I haven’t been to the Lynn Public Library in over 20 years so when a pleasant voice suggested that be our meeting place for an interview, I thought it was perfect. I have never met this student, but what I left with was a story of strength and perseverance. I arrived early and waited to interview my first student.
Marie, a native of Haiti and currently working on her HiSet, greeted me with a big smile and warm hug. The first comment she made was, “I hope you can understand my English.” Clearly this was something new for both of us but our goal of spreading awareness of Pathways and the amazing things the program does for students kept us focused, we found a desk by a window and began the interview.
My first question was about her challenges of attending an intense adult English education program. “Scary,” she says to me.
“To come to a country and not know the language is scary. Things change all the time. I knew I had to learn English to do something. I saved and saved so I could take CNA classes. The teachers at Pathways taught me strategies on how to pass and they helped me practice for interview. Teachers also supported me as I’ve gotten my driver’s license and been certified to administer medication.”
During our conversation, Marie shared that she is a breast cancer survivor.
“Who was I going to complain to? The teachers helped me. I lived in the computer lab and researched. I practiced my vocabulary and spelling to keep my mind busy. When I was down, my teachers told me, ‘don’t cry. Play your music.’ They kept me awake. Some days I cried. Some days I laughed and danced to music.”
Still she pushed through and attended her classes even during chemotherapy.
I asked of her hopes, dreams and what she sees as her next chapter.
“This year I am working hard on my HiSet. I will continue my studies for work. I dream of having my family together. My teachers helped me to learn Skype. I can see my family and we help each other with homework and studies. I teach them and they teach me.”
As I sat and listened I couldn’t help but wonder how someone who battled cancer, worked, attended classes while being separated from her family for over 8 years could be so genuinely positive and happy? Her energy and smile are simply inspiring.
I asked her what advice she would give to current and future students, “You have to learn English to do something and to do better. Pathways is a community, a family. Family is important and teachers are family. Everything you want to do, you can do with Pathways.”
Update: in 2016 Marie successfully completed her HiSET tests and received her diploma!