Jorge and Laura

Advancing at work due to determination and support

In 1999, 17-year old Jorge Blancas, an immigrant from Cuernavaca Morelos, Mexico, arrived in Aurora, Illinois. He knew only a few words of English.

“I didn’t need English for living in my community or working in restaurants until I started working for Aurelio’s Pizza in Naperville. My manager offered me more responsibility in the kitchen, but all of the employees were English speakers. I understood what they said, but I couldn’t speak or write English very well. This frustrated me so much that I decided to quit my job.”

Jorge’s supervisor didn’t want to lose this valued employee. Rather than accept his resignation, she put Jorge in touch with Literacy DuPage. Soon, he was improving his English skills through one-on-one training, right at his workplace.

“With my tutor Laura, I began to understand this marvelous language. Learning English has been most difficult for me, but not impossible. My goal is to speak, read and write English fluently so I can communicate with all people, have more confidence at my job, and a better lifestyle.”

Jorge did not quit. Today, he supervises the kitchen staff at Aurelio’s. His career advancement—and growing confidence—came thanks to his own determination, his employer’s support, and a life-changing relationship with Literacy DuPage.

Shabnam and Michael

A refugee’s story of freedom and connection

In 1994, ShabnamArabshaHeefled the dangers of Afghanistan. She moved to Pakistan, where she worked for three years for the United Nations.

“Since I knew Persian and Pashto they had me search for Afghan refugees. I went from tent to tent looking for Afghan women who had no husbands, families, or homes.”

These women—and Shabnam herself—were granted passage to the United States. The day after Christmas, Shabnam arrived in this country, unable to speak a word of English.

“I looked for someone to help me learn English. One day I was in the Villa Park Library. I saw a notice for [Literacy DuPage]. I called the number and a lady put my name on a list. She told me to wait.”

Three weeks later, Shabnam met Michael, her tutor.

“He is very patient. This was two years ago and he is still teaching me. I learn by reading, writing, and speaking.”

Shabnam works to improve her English so she can be employed, informed, and connected. She also wants to help others.

“English is an international language and by knowing English I can also help other refugees. English also helps me to understand the media and to know what is going on in the world … Knowing English is a big part of this great and free country.”

Christian and Karen

Unlocking the door to a fuller life in the U.S.

Christian moved to the U.S. with her husband Ernesto in 2005 knowing virtually no English. She needed to communicate with her children’s teachers, doctors and other professionals.  She also desired to get a job.

Karen, an elementary school teacher with more than 20 years of experience instructing adults in English literacy, became Christian’s tutor.

In the three short years since the two women started working together, Christian advanced to the point where she understands about 90 percent of what is said to her.  She can easily converse with doctors, teachers and other English speakers.  She also passed her driver’s license exam, and secured a part-time job.  Christian is now thriving in her new life in the U.S.

Pablo and Coleman

Committing to Learn is the key to success

Pablo first came to the U.S. looking for work in 1997.  Later his wife Linda joined him.

For Pablo, lacking English skills was not an issue, since his work colleagues were also native Spanish speakers.  Linda, however, wanted to be able to communicate with her neighbors, store clerks, doctors and others she encountered in the community.  After getting connected with Literacy DuPage and improving her English skills, Linda encouraged Pablo to do the same.

Pablo was paired with Coleman, a University of Chicago MBA who – having made his mark in the business world – decided it was time to become more active in community and volunteer activities.  Pablo has experienced the benefits of improving his speaking ability noting, “I have more opportunity with my job now”.

The couple’s dedication to learning is inspirational. While Linda continues to enhance her writing skills, Pablo is focusing on reading comprehension.