In One Little Corner of the World, The Hope for Better Tomorrows

In one little corner of the world, my classroom, I find amazing students from all over the world…Albania, the Dominican Republic, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Mexico, Palestine, Peru, the Republic of Georgia, South Korea, Sudan, Ukraine, and Vietnam.  Let me tell you just a bit about a few of them, changing their names to protect their privacy.

Shirley escaped as a child from a homeland under communism to go to a safer area before finally being sent to the United States.  Never able to go to college, first because of her father’s mandate that she marry, then because her husband insisted on children, she soon found herself widowed and needing a job to be able to provide for her family.  Finally she is able to come to college.

Sean, imprisoned four times for trying to escape the military regime in his country, nearly died of starvation and malaria,  not to mention assault and robbery twice on his journey to the United States.  Now he sits, always quietly, in the front of my class.

Michael from Asia and Marta from Latin America left the grandparents who raised them to come to U.S. to be with parents they hadn’t seen or really known since they were small.  Two different families, two different parts of the world, same story.

James took out a loan for his wife’s brother who then defaulted on the loan causing James and his wife to declare bankruptcy and see their house go into foreclosure as they are now both unemployed.  James doesn’t miss a day of school because, he says,  it is a happy place for him in a life of trouble.

Susan is happy to get a job at a low paying factory where her husband also works here in town.   When asked what they did prior to moving to the U.S., she replied that she was an office manager for fifteen years, and her husband was the director of tourism for their country.  Why did they leave that good life to come to this country?  Their oldest son got a scholarship to study in the U.S., and they wanted the younger son to have the same opportunity.  They gave it all up for their children’s  future.

These are only a few of the life stories of  the students I work with, and you can be sure there is an equally interesting story for each of the others.  They look like ordinary people living ordinary lives, but there is a plethora of experience and information inside each of them.   The road they have chosen is a bumpy one.  Life as an immigrant is not easy here despite the American dream that we still believe in and work for.

I, myself,  am humbled by my students and in awe of their stamina and determination to survive and improve their lots in life.  I am grateful that they find my classroom to be a positive environment and a friendly, happy place that takes them temporarily away from their daily struggles and puts them on a path to better tomorrows.

I believe that my students will help make our country stronger and better because of their diversity, their willingness to work hard for the benefit of their families, and their love of and belief in this nation.  I hope that in these difficult economic times the American people will see to it that our  “new Americans” have the opportunity to work toward and achieve their American dream.

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