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Giving Back

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Recently I joined the Adult Basic Education team at Wenatchee Valley College teaching reading, writing, and math. I was a little nervous at first because I was facing a room full of students ranging in age from 20 to 67 and skills from 1st grade to college. Fortunately, 40+ years of teaching prepared me for the challenge of individualizing lessons, teaching, and approaches. What I wasn’t prepared for was the commitment, enthusiasm, motivation, and respect these students displayed. Their reasons for taking the class vary. Some simply want to earn their GED so they can improve their work situation. Some have high school and college diplomas earned in a different country and now they want to improve their English. Some want to be prepared to take “real” courses at Wenatchee Valley College and then move on to a 4-year college. All want to provide better opportunities for their families. The all work during the day and come to school at night. They never complain about being tired or over-worked, although they do sometimes mention that it is hard being away from their families so much. They usually follow that up with, “but it is worth it for a better future.” They all have their own stories to tell. There is Marcia who left Mexico when she married a US citizen. She is young, and the change was huge. She left family, a good job, even a favorite pet. She found herself among strangers, with no car, no friends, no job. She tells me that she decided to quit feeling sorry for herself and embrace all the good things in her life. She went back to school so she could learn to speak English well enough to get a good job in her field. She’s almost there! There is Mark who as a youth had a hot temper and got into trouble pretty consistently. He has a brother who is an engineer and CEO in his company and a sister who is an attorney. He has missed a couple of promotions here because he doesn’t have that GED. But recently he told us of earning his citizenship and how that felt and how proud he was to have achieved it. And then there is Santos. Santos is a painting contractor who has lived in this country for a long time. He writes like a poet and reads at a college level. Math is his bugaboo and yet he is progressing there. In two quarters he never missed a class, so I was surprised last week when he wasn’t there. One of my colleagues came to say that he was in Olympia as part of a committee to plead that money for the Wenatchee homeless and disabled community wasn’t cut by 2 million dollars. He was very excited to have met Linda Evans Parlette, Cary Condotta, and other state politicians. He was able to observe the legislature and listen to debates. He said it gave him “chills” to be in the capitol and listen to these important people. But it’s why he was chosen that is most impressive. Santos has worked with the homeless population in Wenatchee for a long, long time. He volunteers at Bruce House and the Women’s Resource Center. He works with these people because he was once homeless himself, and he wants to do whatever he can to help people find their way and change their lives. For him, going to school is the big factor. “I will always continue my education,” he announced. “And I will always help others.” There is nothing else to say, except , “Thank you to everyone who quietly gives back to this community.”