Making the American Dream a Reality
Hers is a story that mimics the stories of thousands of immigrants that moved to this country – she hardly spoke and understood English, she lacked skills, and had difficulty adapting to a new culture that’s totally different from hers. Her story however differs from many in one aspect – she decided to do something about it!
Meet Carinna Tello, her husband Victor, and their 5-year-old son Alan. Together, they received the 2010 Spotlight on Achievement Awards for the work that they did to improve their reading skills and for learning the English language. The Tello family and nine other awardees were given the recognition by Secretary of State Jesse White at a special event held at the State Library in Springfield, IL last May.
"I am honored and privileged to congratulate these outstanding students for their hard work and determination in seeking to enhance their reading and learning skills," Secretary White said in a press release. "Many of them have overcome enormous personal difficulties and obstacles to reach this level of achievement. Theirs are stories of courage and amazing persistence, and we are all inspired by their success."
Carinna’s story started almost three years ago when she first came to the United States. Four days after she arrived, her mother-in-law brought her and her son to District 214 Community Education at Forest View Educational Center (FVEC) in Arlington Heights, IL to register for an English as Second Language (ESL) class. The visit proved to be life changing for her.
"At the beginning, it was difficult for me to live in a foreign country, adapt to a different culture, and speak another language. This is not easy but fortunately I found District 214 Community Education. It was incredible for me that they also offered childcare, then I had the opportunity to study while my son was learning too," Carinna said.
Carinna discovered Community Education, the Catherine M. Lee Women’s & Children’s Center, its many services, and various satellite locations. She attended Beginning ESL five days a week and worked her way up to the advanced level. She learned the Dialogical Reading Method through the SOS Family Literacy program and realized her role as her son’s first and most important teacher. The program also allowed her, her husband, and her son to learn and enjoy family activities together. She and her family became frequent visitors of the library where they received information on how to start a small home business. Those trips have paid off for the Tellos. They started one.
Carinna’s determination and perseverance made the greatest difference in her goal to succeed. She was undeterred. When transportation was an issue, she walked to her classes with her son, even braving the harsh Chicago winters. She discovered the bookmobile and it became a favorite place for her and her son to go. Reading stories to her son has now become a part of her nightly routine.
In just a short time, Carinna has earned her driver’s license; she was trained by Northwest Community Hospital as a "Promotora de Salud," one who goes out to the community educating Latinas on preventive health issues like diabetes; and she was offered a paid position teaching a computer class on Saturdays.
Carinna has come a long way from the woman who first came to America - shy, lacked confidence, one who couldn’t ask for directions, call a doctor, or talk to a neighbor - to somebody who has discovered the joys of teaching, one who has become an achiever, a role model, a confident woman who is ready to contribute and do more for her community. For now, she is setting her biggest goal, the ultimate prize: Becoming an American citizen.
For Carinna and her family, achieving the American Dream is not just a dream; it’s now a reality! Through the help of District 214 Community Education, its encouraging and supportive teachers and staff, the Tellos are well on their way.