Success at School

“If I know English, I can work, talk anywhere to anyone, fill out applications, do anything–and this is what I most want.”

Originally from rural Somalia, Maryama arrived in the United States as a refugee in 2010. She boarded a plan on one side of the world, and when she got off, she was 7500 miles from all she had ever known.

Those first days here were the hardest. Not only was Maryama removed from the love and support of family, but due to a childhood leg injury, she also struggled to complete many physical tasks without assistance.

After two days alone, an older sister and brother-in-law joined her. But the joy was short-lived because her sister was sick upon arrival and hospitalized for a week.

While her sister recovered, Maryama and her brother-in-law were at a loss. Neither knew how to cook supper, let alone how to figure out foreign transportation, language, or culture. The kitchen cabinets were bare. They had no Somali neighbors to help ease the transition. And their case worker, after settling them into housing, was nowhere to be found, despite increasingly frantic phone calls.

Life improved. Maryama’s sister came home. Their case worker finally reappeared. They connected with other Somali refugees. And they slowly learned enough about their new environment to survive.

But Maryama wanted to do more than survive. She wanted to thrive, and she knew that English was the way to do it. “If I know English, I can work, talk anywhere to anyone, fill out applications, do anything–and this is what I most want.”

In May of 2012, Maryama registered for a beginning English class at the English Learning Center. She’d tried another program previously, but transportation was a barrier. When she learned about the ELC’s free van, she knew she’d found the place for her.

In just over two years, Maryama has flown through our entire English curriculum, up to the highest level offered! She is also now taking reading circles and preparing for her citizenship exam.

Maryama’s incredible progress can be credited to her determination to learn. Her teacher observed, “She has been so motivated. Clearly, she is studying at home. She is amazing and will go far.” Moreover, Maryama is one of few students who has attended classes in both the morning and evening–that’s 8 times a week!

Although Maryama says she is eager to “graduate,” she also does not want to leave the ELC. The community she’s found here has been most valuable to her, like a second home.

Maryama takes a bright outlook on the future, especially now that most of her family has reunited in the U.S. Her primary goal is to be independent. She never wants to be in a position to relive those paralyzing first days again.

To get there, she’ll continue to follow the same advice she gives to others: “Just keep learning, and you will get to your goal.”