"I have $20, and I want to change my life, so I'm going to try this."
Can you look back and point to a specific moment of transformation?
For Maria, it was the moment she spotted the flyer that said "Change your life for $20". Already enrolled in ESL classes, Maria was looking for the next big step. And the flyer was exactly what she was looking for, offering new skills to help her set up a small business.
It wasn't as though she didn't already have plenty of business experience. Maria had been the owner and CEO of an industrial cleaning company for 25 years. She used to have what she describes as "a very comfortable life" in her home country. She was successful, she loved her job, and she was thriving.
But things started to change in her country. The failing economy and volatile political situation forced her to flee for her own safety. Maria had family in Houston and qualified for permanent resident status in the U.S., so she moved to Texas. Suddenly, everything was different - and the skills and knowledge she could depend on to get her through the day had changed drastically as well.
Maria knew that knowing English was the key to re-building her success. She registered for English classes at Literacy Advance, and at MAM's main campus on Blalock, and began the daunting task of starting over.
After some time working on the basics, Maria learned about a Job Interview Practice conversational class that she could attend. In her words:
"The class was excellent! The job interviews in my country are very different, and as a business owner, I never had an interview before. This class was exactly what I needed. My tutor Rose took videos of us doing interviews, and she gave us feedback. That was a big accomplishment for me; it was my first job interview in English."
Her confidence rising, Maria felt ready to start applying for jobs.
"I was very afraid of job interviews but the class helped me to feel confident," she says now. She continued doing extra practice every day, making sure to complete all homework, and learning all the English she could. And then she spotted the flyer.
"It was a flyer that said, 'Change your life for $20', and next to it was another flyer about classes for small businesses. I thought: I have $20, and I want to change my life; I’m going to try these two."
And with that, her success accelerated! Maria registered for a Payroll Certification course at Houston Community College during the week, and for free small business workshops at BakerRipley on Saturdays. She was ready for both, because of all the English she'd already been able to learn. She graduated from both her ESL courses, even being chosen to speak at the graduation ceremony at MAM. Asked about what's ahead, Maria says with a smile:
"The payroll certification has helped me to get a good job, and will help me plan my own business at the same time. My business plan is going well. I get a lot of advice and help at BakerRipley, and I plan to start my own business later this year."
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