First Literacy Scholars 2019-2020

Oumaima

Oumaima

Oumaima was always talented in math and languages, learning English as a third language at the age of twelve. Unfortunately, cultural restrictions in Morocco kept her from testing her skills and expanding her experiences. When Oumaima came to the United States she was...

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Luis

Luis

Luis attended elementary school in his small village in El Salvador, but high school and university required travel to a bigger town, a trip that exposed him to weekly gang attacks. After his report to the police, more serious threats forced him to abandon his family...

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Izabella

Izabella

Born in Brazil, Izabella was left with her grandparents when her single mother went abroad to work. She was seventeen and a sophomore in high school when her mother brought her and her older sibling to Medford. She graduated from Medford High School in May 2018 and...

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Livanny

Livanny

Livanny grew up in the Dominican Republic where she graduated from high school in the top five percent and served in the volunteer military service. She arrived in Boston in December 2016 with no English but quickly progressed through her ESOL classes at the Jamaica...

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Tatiana Jean

Tatiana Jean

Though Tatiana lost her parents early in Haiti, she studied, worked hard, and completed high school and a university business degree. Over the next seven years she worked her way up to an accounting management position, but had to start over when she, her husband, and...

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Axel

Axel

After years of educational challenges, Axel found the JVS Adult Diploma Pathway, where, with his own hard work and the dedication and patience of his teachers, it all “clicked.” Axel graduated in June with his high-school diploma, a passion for computers, and the...

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Geraldine

Geraldine

At seven, Geraldine suffered severe burns in a fire at her home outside Lima, Peru. After a year at a local hospital she was among the most critical cases selected by a group of U.S. physicians for transfer to Boston for treatment. There she learned English by...

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Stephan

Stephan

Stephan, a native of Haiti, knew he wanted to be a nurse when he was six years old. Later in North Miami Beach High, he volunteered for health service projects and worked for Care.com until circumstances threw him off track, and he dropped out of school. After his...

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Vu

Vu

Vu arrived in the United States from Vietnam in August 2014 with his wife, son, and daughter. He studied English at St. Mark’s Community Education Center and immediately enrolled in courses at Bunker Hill Community College, but it was difficult to study while working...

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Allexandre

Allexandre

Alex is an artist from Cape Verde where he earned a degree in ecotourism. He was an air traffic controller before emigrating to the US to escape an environment of abuse and discrimination. Alex studied English at the Holyoke Community College Ludlow Adult Education...

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Adriana

Adriana

After waiting for almost ten years for her green card, Adriana was finally able to come to the United States from El Salvador. With business education and accounting experience, Adriana qualified for many related positions but needed to improve her English. She found...

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Marie

Marie

Marie came to Boston eight years ago when the United States welcomed victims of Haiti’s 7.2 earthquake in 2010. She stayed with friends, found work housekeeping, and ate turkey sandwiches morning, noon and night to save for her own home. She studied English at the...

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Judelande

Judelande

Judelande grew up in Haiti as the fourth of nine children. Due to financial constraints, Judelande, who had always wanted to attend college, was only able to complete high school. She moved to the United States when she was pregnant with her daughter and became...

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Jocelyne

Jocelyne

Jocelyne left her family and small village in Haiti at 13 and found work in the US as a babysitter. She learned English and eventually earned her high school diploma at Jewish Vocational Services while working and raising her own children. In 1994, Jocelyne became a...

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Yves

Yves

Yves came to the United States from Haiti in 2015. After witnessing the disastrous 2010 earthquake she realized she wanted to be a nurse and made the decision to pursue her dream in the U.S. When she arrived in the United States she was met with many challenges. She...

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Karen

Karen

When Karen came to the United States from Columbia, she knew that to succeed and understand this new culture she needed to learn the language. Karen quickly progressed through English and college transition programs at El Centro del Cardinal and in 2020 she completed...

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Damus

Damus

Damus came to Boston eight years ago when the United States welcomed victims of Haiti’s magnitude 7.2 earthquake in 2010. She stayed with friends, found work housekeeping, and ate turkey sandwiches morning, noon, and night to save for her own home. She studied English...

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Julia

Julia

Julia was born and raised in East Boston. With an unconventional upbringing, she and her younger sisters did not attend school or see doctors. Julia’s first experience in a classroom was when she enrolled at Harborside Community School’s Adult Education Program. She...

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Gabriela

Gabriela

Gabriela grew up in Venezuela with a love of books inspired by her mother. Outside of her studies she worked on social projects in Caracas, attended a social empowerment course in Mexico and participated in the 2017 Yale Global Scholars program. While she was at Yale,...

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Ariela

Ariela

Ariela moved from Cape Verde to Lisbon, Portugal with her single mother when she was fifteen. She struggled with the transition, dropped out of school and worked as a waitress. In 2014, with a 6-month old daughter, Ariela followed her mother to the United States....

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Edith

Edith

The youngest of several children, 10-year-old Edith was sent to live with her grandparents who put her to work for the adults in the household rather than send her to school. She was soon ill from exhaustion and hospitalized. Thanks to her doctor’s intervention, she...

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