"Education is a right and we need to keep advocating for it."
On a rainy morning, hundreds of adult ESOL students gathered under umbrellas at Brooklyn Borough Hall to rally for adult literacy funding. They were a mighty force to behold, their signs held high in the air. At the forefront standing proudly was our student, Gicela Jarquin. She spoke confidently and passionately in front of various literacy organizations and elected officials. “Education is a right and we need to keep advocating for it,” Gicela proclaimed amid loud applause.
Gicela’s journey at Literacy Partners started last year when she joined our English For Parents classes in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. As a single mother in Mexico, earning enough to provide basic needs and an education for her children was challenging. She had to work more than 15 hours a day to make ends meet. She decided to immigrate to the United States and focus on ensuring her children Reina, Isabel, Enrique, Jayden, and Emily will have the opportunities she did not.
Gicela realized that because of her language limitations, she was missing the opportunity of helping her children. “If I want to keep improving, I need to practice and keep learning,” she told us. Gicela’s improvements don’t go unnoticed. At her children's school, teachers compliment her improved language skills and how she’s better able to advocate for her children as a result. “It made me feel really happy to hear that. Those moments motivate me – I root for myself now,” she said.
Gicela understands how far she’s come and it has motivated her to go even further. She is an active community member of a Parent Teacher Association and the Diversity Committee at PS1. When interviewed by NY1 Noticias, she told them that “the opportunity to be the voice of all immigrants, not only Latinos, but the entire immigrant community [is exciting].”
Gicela cites her experience as our 2019 Gala speaker as her highlight of the year. She shared her story on stage in front of more than 400 guests. “It was an unforgettable experience, I felt like a whole different person,” she said with tearful eyes. The evening proved to Gicela that she can achieve anything in life. Seeing her children beaming with pride as guests congratulated her was priceless, especially because of the example it set for them: “Once you set a goal for yourself and work towards it, nothing can stop you.” Literacy Partners is proud of Gicela’s achievements and the role model she’s become as she advocates for other immigrant families like her own.
My name is Yekaterina. I am from Kazakhstan. It’s really far from here—it’s close to Russia. I’ve been living in New York for about two years now.
I like to go out for fun and just to walk around New York because there’s still a lot of places that I didn’t visit yet. And there’s always something new you can find on the street.
I speak Russian, that’s my first language, I speak English, Chinese, and Ukrainian.
My friend told me that there is a program in Manhattan that provides intensive English classes. Adult Literacy helped me a lot and our teacher was great. His name was Jay, and he was a great teacher—he taught me a lot and I learned a lot from him.
My goals were to find a place in the United States, to start a new life and first of all I needed to know the language that people speak around me to find a good job and to fit in the society.
I found my first job at University Settlement at Adult Literacy. While working as an office assistant, I learned a lot about the environment in the office. That’s the first thing that was a bit different for me because that was the first time that I worked in the United States and everything is new. So that was a big, huge step for me here in the United States to get a job in the office.
Thanks to Adult Literacy I found another job, a full-time job, at University Settlement at the Consultation Center. The Consultation Center is a mental health clinic at University Settlement. We help people who struggle with mental health issues and I am an administrative assistant there. I’m happy to have that job because, again, it helps you a lot when you move from another country and you start your life from zero to get a full-time job in an office and with a good environment—it’s amazing!
I want to tell you that program is an amazing program, Adult Literacy is an amazing program, because you can find a program that’s free and it’s intensive English and they help you with your job, they help you to build your resume, they help you to study English, and there’s so many things that this program helped me with. So I’m really grateful for that.