Events   Award-Winning Leaners

From Afghanistan to the U.S. Shabnam walks with courage and determination


My sister, I and her four children went to live in Pakistan after running away from the dangers and killings in Afghanistan. This was in 1994. I got a job in Pakistan working with 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 were accepted by the United Nations and were sent to the United States. I did this for three years. I did a lot of walking. Three thousand women were flown to the United States.

The day after Christmas I, my sister and her children arrived in the United States. At that time we could not 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 the Literacy of DuPage county. I called the number and a lady put my name on a list. She told me to wait. After three weeks I met my tutor. His name is Michael and he is very patient. This was two years ago and he is still teaching me. I learn by reading, writing, and speaking.

Why do I learn English? For many reasons. Getting a job, becoming more educated and communicating with people. 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. I am a seamstress and too often have lost customers because of my poor communicating. Knowing English is a big part of this great and free country.

Ohh! And I still do a lot of walking!

Thanks to literacy—and an employer's support—Jorge discovered confidence and career advancement


I'm from Cuernavaca Morelas, Mexico, I came to the United States in 1999 when I was 17 years old. I didn't know anything about this country, and I knew only a few words of English. I moved to Aurora and got a job in a restaurant where I really enjoyed the work. I like to cook. Everything was going well: all my coworkers spoke Spanish and so did the people in my house, in the stores, in the parks, and in all places in my neighborhood. I didn't need English for working in restaurants or for living in my community.

In 2005, I decided to learn some English. I took an ESL class at Waubonsee Community College. I went there for a few months, but I didn't think English was really necessary, so I stopped going to class. English was not necessary for me until my managers at Aurelio's Pizza offered me more responsibility in the kitchen. At this time, all the employees at Aurelio's 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.

But thanks to a very good person, my boss Celeste, I had the opportunity to connect with Literacy DuPage. With my tutor Laura Rivas, I began to understand more about this marvelous language. Learning to write and speak English has been the most difficult for me but not impossible, and this time I don't plan to stop learning. I want to learn as much English as I can because I know it will be useful to me in this country.

My goal is to speak, read, and write English fluently so I can communicate with all people around me. I want to continue having more confidence at my job so one day I can have a better lifestyle.