By Chris Cunningham
When Maria Sollo Diaz arrived in the U.S. 15 years ago, she couldn't speak a word of English. That made understanding the culture difficult.
"When you come to America, and you don't know English, everything is without color, because language colors our world," says Maria, who is from Oaxaca, Mexico.
These days, on the commute to and from her home in Veneta, Maria enjoys listening to audiobooks in English, a pleasure made possible because she enrolled in English as a Second Language classes at Lane Community College 10 years ago. While nervous at first, Maria says she relaxed when ESL instructor Beth Schenderlein "would use another approach, if you didn't get it."
Maria says she received support and guidance from every instructor at Lane, including those in the Transiciones (Women in Transition) and Career Pathways programs—designed for Spanish-speaking students—and in the Early Childhood Education classes.
The Transiciones curriculum empowers Spanish-speaking women to become more self-sufficient and self-aware through life and career planning and goal setting exercises. Career Pathways offers coursework and occupational training to teach students specific skill sets for particular careers, often in just three terms. In 2012, Maria was one of the first students at Lane to enroll in the new Early Childhood Education for English Language Learners (ECE-VESL). In spring 2015, she will earn a one-year ECE certificate.
While contemplating her career goals, Maria has volunteered as a teacher's aide in Veneta Elementary School's classrooms, where her two daughters have attended school, and as a Spanish-speaking announcer at KWVA radio station. "Fifteen years ago, it was hard to find a Spanish-speaking radio station," she says.
Her experiences at the radio station and in the classroom have helped shaped her immediate goal of employment as a classroom aide and long-term goal as a broadcast journalist.
A self-starter by nature, Maria still acknowledges that her husband and daughters' support and encouragement have eased her academic journey.
"Take the risk to go outside your comfort zone," she advises. "There is a way to reach your goals."
For more information:
* English as a Second Language programs: http://www.lanecc.edu/esl
* Early Childhood Education program: http://www.lanecc.edu/cfe/ece
Published by Marketing and Public Relations, February 2015.