Current Job: Sous chef
Past Job: Dishwasher
Ramon Alvarez came to this country when he was 16. He’d had eight years of schooling in Mexico and knew no English. Like many immigrants, he came here so that he could send money back to his family in Mexico.
Soon after Ramon arrived, he landed a job working for $8.25 an hour as a dishwasher. Now, ten years later, he’s a sous chef with a salary of $36,000 a year plus benefits.
Ramon attributes his success to the ESL classes and computer classes he started taking three years ago, first at Sequoia District Adult School and then at Cañada College. All of Ramon’s college textbooks and parking passes were paid for by SASS scholarships.
“I use English every day,” Ramon says. “I need to talk to the waiters and talk to the managers. I also need to use the computer to order food, take inventory, and send emails. I learned those skills at the Sequoia District Adult School and then Cañada College.”
Due to the stresses of his new job—he has to commute from Redwood City to San Francisco—as well as family problems, Ramon had to stop taking classes mid-semester, but plans to return to college once his life settles down. Not surprisingly, his goal is to be a chef.
Current Job: Mom
As a mother of two children with cystic fibrosis, Corina Romero is used to spending time in hospitals. Last year alone her children, ages six and nine, were hospitalized with lung infections more than twelve times.
Corina came to the United States from El Salvador when she was 21. When her children were first diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, Corina knew no English. As a result, she depended on medical interpreters to translate. Since interpreters were in short supply, she was forced to spend additional time in waiting rooms, her children in tow, before an interpreter was available.
Corina’s response was to enroll in ESL classes—first at Sequoia District Adult School and then at Cañada College—so she could learn enough English to speak directly with the doctors, nurses, and pulmonologists caring for her children. Corina has achieved her goal: today, when hospital personnel ask her if she’d like an interpreter, she politely declines.
Corina received her first SASS scholarship in 2011. In addition to taking ESL classes, Corina has taken several college computer applications and fitness classes—all of which provided much-needed distractions from the concerns that consumed her. “When I was in school, I stopped thinking about my situation,” Corina says. “School helped me to not focus only on the bad.”
In July, Corina’s daughter Doris received a double lung transplant so, for now, Corina is caring for her full time. Long term, her dream is to be a nurse. “I know how to give my daughter an IV, flush the line, and change the G-tube (gastronomy tube). After that, being a nurse shouldn’t be so difficult,” she says.
To see a video of Corina and Doris filmed before Doris got her lung transplant, go to Lipstick Girl.