Over the years, we have celebrated many students moving on to GED testing, higher education, job training, and employment. Recently, we checked back with one of these students to see where she is today.
Aziza moved with her seven-month-old son from Ethiopia to Minnesota in 2008. She was joining her husband, who is also from Ethiopia but immigrated to the U.S. before her.
When she arrived, Aziza quickly decided to go to school to improve her English. Fortunately, she already had basic reading and writing skills from studying English in high school. She could also understand some spoken words. But she still recalls the difficulty of asking for help each day.
As Aziza reflects on her time at the ELC, she says:
“It is a comfortable place to go. The staff is very friendly. I was greatly encouraged by all the teachers who volunteer. Mohamed used to pick me up [in the ELC van], and that was very helpful. I didn’t have an excuse for not coming. That support ensured that I kept going to school. I liked that there was a place to pray. I haven’t seen prayer spaces in schools. It was very special.”
Aziza progressed quickly during her two years here, moving through three English levels and completing our most advanced curriculum. After graduation, she went on to pass the GED exam – on her first try!
From there, Aziza considered her career options. She wanted a job where she could help people and make a difference. So she enrolled in a vocational school to study administrative assistance and human services.
Aziza now works at the International Institute of Minnesota, where she supports refugees during their first eight months in the United States. She processes applications for cash assistance and helps people navigate MNsure. She also meets with clients every month to talk about how they are doing and connect them to schools, job services, and other resources.
The work is not easy. It takes a lot of patience and hard work. But Aziza doesn’t mind. She knows that refuges are overwhelmed with information within days of arrival. It’s a lot to process, and people understandably have questions.
It helps that Aziza can relate to her clients. While she did not spend time in a refugee camp, she knows what it’s like building a life in a new country and being away from family. She believes that this shared experience helps her do her job well.
Although Aziza takes pride in her work, she is most proud of learning English. She exclaims, “People tell me I don’t even have an accent. They don’t believe I have only lived here for seven years!”
In her closing words, Aziza has some advice for current students:
“[Learning English] enables you to do a lot of other things. Without knowing the language, it will be impossible to have a better education and a good job. It’s not easy, and there are a lot of reasons to miss school. But work hard, and show up every day! It might take time to see improvement, but it will come if you’re 100% dedicated.”