Women Progress from Survival English to Self-Reliance
Everybody has a favorite charity. Mine is Unlimited Potential, a grassroots adult literacy and ESL program for the working poor in Phoenix. I format their newsletters and update their website. The teachers there perform little miracles every day, and not a penny is wasted. Nonetheless, UP is struggling and can use help of any kind. For the 2014 fall semester UP needs dictionaries and workbooks. Please buy one on GoFundMe! Thank you!
Lidia, a program participant, brought me tamales one day, made from her special recipe con chiles y chocolate. (She was simply too nice, I might have mentioned my appetite—they were ricissimo.) In her tiny village Arroyo Tomate in Oaxaca, Mexico, Lidia grew up with 7 siblings and other family members in a rackety shack. There was no running water, the roof was leaking, and grocery shopping was a daytrip on foot to the nearest town. After she joined her husband in Phoenix, she felt helpless and alone. She spoke barely any Spanish—only her native Chinanteco—but she eagerly absorbed every new English word in Sandra’s class at UP. Lidia was a beaming lighthouse of gratitude.
What a story! Only one of many. Most of the participants at UP come from a day laborer background and can barely afford medical care or school supplies. At UP these immigrant women learn their daily ABCs, while their toddlers and preschoolers follow their own structured programs. They want to improve their families’ lives.
Every time I visit a UP class, the passion and eagerness for learning is palpable. Profesora Sandra, who sat in a student chair herself some years ago, teaches survival English in her class via practical lessons about libraries, public transportation, parenting, nutrition and healthcare, talking with doctors and teachers, and community resources. So the women experience, “I am not alone any more.” The companionship at UP boosts their self-confidence. In the second year, Monica Garcia solidifies the basic skills with role-play scenarios to practice speech, grammar, civics and real life communication.
Stop here, we—you and I—really had it good. We could rely on a lot of resources, help, education, and chances in our upbringing and professional track. So I thought I should share my education in publishing to put together newsletters and a website. That was about eight years ago. The women at Unlimited Potential have always impressed me. They are struggling, they have little education, they speak in broken English, but they seem grateful and undaunted. They are bravely learning to navigate American society. Here are several more reasons why Unlimited Potential has stuck on me.
- UP means “Unlimited Potential.” It also means “up.” Given the opportunity of education, anybody may flourish into an excellent person if they work hard. UP’s alumni have raised their families well, started businesses, and gone to college.
- UP’s founder, Jeanne Devine, impressed me with her boundless humanitarian spirit. She raised the UP programs courageously from a group of mothers surrounding their children’s Head Start program. The current Director, Lorraine Moya Salas PhD, is just as passionate a woman warrior.
- UP promotes education. Education is the best form of charity because it breaks the cycle of dependence. “Don’t give people a fish, but teach them how to fish.”
- UP is empowering women. As the husbands must chase after work, the family’s wellbeing and education rests in the women’s hands. I believe all women/mothers are nation builders, never getting enough credit.
- UP puts immigrants on the road to success. When you are new to a culture and society, you have to relearn everything: rules and laws, shopping, doctors, business opportunities, and community life. Immigrants have to work twice as hard.
- UP’s programs are in high demand. There is a 3-year waiting list for the core classes, and people who land a spot stay throughout the two years (85% retention rate). Many go on to GED exams and some continue in community colleges.
- UP’s teachers are great success stories. First-year-teacher Sandra, as well as children’s teachers Maria, Graciela, and Irene are graduates of the program.
- UP makes me feel happy and enriched after visiting there. The women are so inspiring in their quest for learning and improvement. I rediscover gratitude for what I have and know. I return enriched with motivation.
- UP is a small organization—no overhead, where everybody matters a great deal, and no pencils are wasted. “Where everybody knows your name.”
- UP makes me dream bigger to share more education. My next big dream: raise 100k per year to have 2 teacher salaries covered.
For now, it’s books for learning. If you would like to support UP’s program, buy a dictionary or workbook through Go Fund Me. Thank you for listening!