Students' Success Stories 2018-19
We all enjoy success stories. They are positive messages about overcoming obstacles, working hard for the reward, and finding satisfaction in completing challenges. Read about the students who have obtained citizenship, those who escaped war torn countries and now have assimilated into American society and absorbed our culture, and those who finally read a bedtime story to a young child or grandchild. That last achievement has a special significance for a Basic Literacy student after a lifetime of frustration and low self-esteem. Here at Literacy Volunteers of America we like to celebrate all those positive events in our students’ lives. Sometimes we celebrate with hugs and treats, but most often, we share these achievements with others through this page on our website. That way all of our LVA community can share in the celebration of their success!
When you go for a blood test with Pilar, she might also tell you about Literacy Volunteers of America. After all, that’s basically how she learned about it.
This former doctor from Guayaquil, Ecuador currently works in northern New Jersey as a phlebotomist. An LVA employee came into her lab about two years ago and told her about LVA’s ESL programs. “She told me I could go afternoon, night or weekend and I knew I would like to attend,” Pilar remembered.
She has been an LVA student for almost two years and has quickly advanced through the program. Pilar first tested as an English Speaker of Other Languages student and she is now a Basic Literacy student on par with native English speakers.
Pilar’s rapid rise comes as no surprise. She has always been passionate about education and knew as a child that she wanted to study medicine. “I liked everything about medicine and wanted to cure people with medical problems,” Pilar said. “I dreamed someday I would be a doctor.” Her step-mother was a nurse and she was also surrounded by family friends who worked in the medical field. “My friend was a doctor and I knew I wanted to give injections. He drew a diagram on a piece of paper and showed me what to touch and not touch,” she said. “It was easy for me.”
Pilar’s dream became a reality after graduating from medical school at Universidad de Guayaquil where she earned a degree in general medicine. Pilar exhibited her love for the field during her residency at Daule Hospital that was located in a rural area. “I worked with old machines. We used candles, not lights. Sometimes there was no electricity and if we had patients on oxygen, we had to send them to other towns.” Pilar delivered babies for five years. “At first I didn’t like it,” she said. I changed my mind when I saw that the women depended on me and I told myself, ‘I got to do it.’”
Political problems and a corrupt government prompted Pilar and her husband to flee Ecuador. Her mother in law was living in New Jersey and said to Pilar, “This is the last time I invite you to come to this country because the laws are changing.”
Pilar, her husband and four young boys made their big move to Newark in 1999. She said, “It was hard to leave Ecuador. I felt like I was coming with my whole life in two suitcases.”
At first, life was not easy for them. Both Pilar and her husband took jobs below their skill levels because of their limited English. “We took jobs not in our profession to be able to educate our children. Our family has always valued education,” she said.
Because medical terms are derived from Latin, Pilar was able to pass her test to become a medical assistant. She had learned to write and speak a little English in Ecuador but said when she started speaking to her patients in the United States, “I realized I knew nothing.”
“I wish I had found LVA earlier,” she said. It changed my life. I feel more secure. I can still do the program and keep my job.”