The February 2018 Ministry Stories feature Learning In Style School and demonstrate its holistic approach to education and community.
Life Skills Readiness
Learning In Style Students attended Life Skill Programs hosted by many outstanding organizations in the fall of 2017.
Thanks to all of these groups for teaching LIS students this past year. LIS School looks forward to partnering with you again in 2018!
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Respect! I Can Stick Up for Myself
I was very unhappy and depressed before I came to LIS. I came from Mexico with my baby girl. When I came to this country, there was a job waiting for me in Oklahoma. I was a housekeeper/nanny for a family who lived on a farm. No one spoke Spanish. Everything was new and strange. I was used to a Catholic home environment where our church was our life. We lived on a farm out in the country and there was no way for me to get into town. During the 1 ½ years I lived there, I never left the house or the property, and I was unable to have Hispanic friends or to speak Spanish. I was very lonely.
I eventually told my boss that I didn’t need help and would find a job and make my own way. For the next 18 years, I moved to various states and in between I went to Mexico for short visits. Most of the time I was able to find work, but sometimes my daughter and I lived in shelters. I continued to live with white families as a housekeeper/nanny and didn’t need or get a chance to learn English. I was always unhappy because I felt isolated from everyone.
During this time I got married and had two boys. I still felt alone and depressed. I couldn’t speak the language and couldn’t go out into the community. I stayed at home afraid to leave my house.
In 2008, I came to Minneapolis with my husband and three children. I started LIS in 2010, and began to speak, read and write English. This is when my life changed completely. For the first time in my life I began to know happiness. I also started to help my children with their school work, and I was able to speak to their teachers. I could make my own appointments and speak to medical staff without an interpreter.
All of what I tell you is because of LIS. Without them, my life would not have changed and I would not be happy with my family.
The teachers helped me to feel confident. They encouraged me to use what I learned at school out in the community. They always told me I was smart. They always told me I was good. The English they taught was from a book but they also taught us terms and expressions we needed to know to fit into the culture. Both of my boys were at the Children’s Center while I was in classes at LIS. I would not have been able to go to school if LIS had not provided this child care. I was very lucky to have the boys in the same building with me every day.
Today, I can stick up for myself. I can ask directions, and follow what I’m told to do. I feel like people respect me because I know what they are saying. I can tell them what I think and what I need. I don’t feel ignored anymore. I am equal with others because I can speak and understand the English language.
I am a proud American Citizen. I got my citizenship while I was at LIS. It wasn’t one of my goals, but my teacher kept after me to study for it at LIS. It was hard for me, but there were many teachers and students who helped me study. When I passed my citizenship test and became a citizen, I was very proud. I cooked food for everyone at LIS and had a party to celebrate this big event in my life.
Now, my two boys are in school and my oldest daughter is away at a university. I go to my job at a nursing home. On some nights, I go to church. In the evenings, I sometimes go to other people’s homes and pray with them. On weekends, my family and I are active in our church.
We are very happy. My family has been together for a long time and have had our struggles, but we love each other and our life has what we need – a nice place to live, church, food and good jobs.
An American Dream Come True
I’m from China. My family moved to New York when I was 19. We lived in Chinatown. Everyone spoke Chinese where I worked at the store, where I bought groceries, and everywhere else I would go. I even got a driver’s license in Chinese!
There wasn’t a need for English in New York, but without English I felt trapped in Chinatown. I wanted more. I always felt like I was standing on the outside watching people do things that I could not. When I had the opportunity to come to Minnesota I seized it because I knew I would be able to go to school. It was my turn.
My first day in Minnesota I opened the Yellow Pages and looked for a school. I found Learning In Style and felt the name was special, but I tried another school first because it was closer to where I was staying. The classes were so big that the teacher couldn’t pay any attention to me. I couldn’t learn anything.
Learning In Style was different. Everyone was so friendly and nice when I arrived. I felt welcomed into a family. This school made me so excited every day. The Sisters and other teachers make it special; they always made sure I understood what they were teaching. Then the next day they would make sure I remembered it.
When I first started attending Learning In Style, I didn’t have the skills or confidence to speak English and barely opened my mouth. I didn’t know how to use a computer or type. My goal was to be able to open my mouth and to understand others, that is all. I was so hungry and interested to learn, and this school made it possible for me to meet and exceed my goals. Learning English feels like I got to open the door I was trapped behind and go out into the world. I still feel my life expanding.
When I decided I was ready to find a job, the teachers helped me find all the information I needed. I remember being in my first interview and being asked if I would be able to answer the phone. It felt so great to say yes! I was hired as a greeter at a hotel. I never thought I would be ready to work for such a big, nationwide company that required me to speak English every day.
The whole American dream has come true for me. I got married and we bought our first house. I have been very successful at my job. My husband and I have opened our own business. Every day, I thank all the angels – the teachers, the volunteers, the donors, the Sisters of St. Joseph – that make this school possible.
Alice Poon, Former Learning In Style Student