Literacy Program Breaking Down Barriers
BROWNSVILLE, April 27, 2004 - Tomas Rodriguez clearly remembers how he carefully scripted a list of words with the letter "H" onto a piece of paper. He was careful not to make mistakes on his work. The 34-year-old father of four is one of dozens of people taking literacy classes in his native language, Spanish, at the Cameron Park Community Center three days a week.
For the first time and after three months of literacy classes, he was able to write letters from the Spanish alphabet. He can combine letters to make words and words to make sentences.
For the first time in his life, Rodriguez wrote. "Before, it was difficult to be in situations where I need to fill out something," said the Brownsville resident. "If I had to write, I would simply leave out of shame," he said.
Now, Rodriguez said, he's not afraid to go places where the most basic writing skills are required. Now, he said, he could fill out some paperwork or at least read important papers. Last month, Rodriguez was one of dozens of people who graduated from the literacy classes by a bi-national program funded through Mexico's National Institute for Adult Education.
The program is sponsored by the 10-year-old Mexican Communities Abroad program of the Mexican Consulate in Brownsville. The Mexican Secretariat of Foreign Affairs created the Program for Mexican Communities Abroad in 1990. The program, supported by Mexican state and federal agencies, works to bridge the communication gap between those who live in Mexico and live abroad as well as provide services aimed at improving the quality of life.
"It was created to receive my elementary school diploma. Imagine after more than 10 years without any class of education. I finally did it," Rodriguez added.
The classes are free to the Brownsville residents and held at the Iglesia Bautista in Southmost, the Community Learning Center at the Cunningham Manor Apartments Complex and at the Cameron Park Community Center.
Rosa Ramos, adult education coordinator at Cameron Park Community Center, received training last year by INEA and began teaching the secondary class last October, where now Rodriguez is part of it. She said many of her students have lived their lives quietly guarding the truth.
"Some are very embarrassed to let people know (that) they don't know how to read and write," Ramos said. "They come in and we start at the beginning - sometimes learning the alphabet or others time we do a lot of math work. I've seen them improve so much," Ramos said. Ramos received training in Michoacan, Mexico.
Students meet Monday and Wednesday from 10 a.m. to noon at the center at 2100 Gregory Avenue.
Meanwhile, Mexican officials said the main objective of the adult education program is to provide the necessary tools to the Mexican community to improve their quality of life.
"This program is designed for Spanish-speaking adults and consist of a literacy program as well to focus on finishing from their primary to secondary education," said Barbara Gutierrez, coordinator of the Mexican Communities Abroad Department at the Mexican Consulate in Brownsville.
She said, "we want to help the community and those who are interesting to do it," Gutierrez said adding that "some others are taking secondary and some others are already in the U.S. system."
One of those students hoping to enrich her education is 46-year-old Micaela Salgado, a Mexican national who moved to Brownsville 10 years ago. She's hoping to obtain her high school diploma here and eventually to pursue a college degree in physiology.
"I just want to move forward in life," Salgado said. "I'm motivated to complete the program soon." Salgado earned her General Education Diploma (GED) last November.
"I have almost five months in the secondary classes, and I think it's because of that I passed the GED exam, and it felt great," Salgado added. Salgado moved from Obregon, Sonora about 10 years ago. She is a janitor at the Valley Christian High School.
"These classes are very important, because they actually help you to start once again your education, but I think is great," she said.
Reprinted with permission from The Brownsville Herald http://www.brownsvilleherald.com/ts_comments.php?id=P59008_0_10_0_C