Monica is one of an exclusive group – Literacy Advance students-to-tutors! After taking English classes with us, Monica’s life path, ambitions, and urge to give back to the community brought her back to the classroom – but this time as the tutor.
We’re so proud of all her achievements and both grateful and inspired by her determination to pass on some of the learning she received from others.
What first brought you to MAM Literacy Advance?
I was born and raised in Mexico City speaking exclusively Spanish. Growing up it had never crossed my mind to move away from my country, my family, my job and friends. However, fourteen years ago I met the person who is now my husband. Then he was working in Mexico and eventually when he asked me, I accepted to marry him and move to the United States.
Although I did not speak a word of English then, I did not hesitate to follow him. Once in Houston, to communicate better and gain more independence, I started ESL classes at Houston Community College (HCC). After a year in English classes, I decided to attend a bilingual nurse’s aid program also at HCC. This program awoke in me the desire to return to school to pursue a second degree, now in English.
At the same time, I also realized that I wanted to become an American citizen. However, my English level was not yet sufficient to accomplish these goals. A friend of mine who was attending ESL classes at MAM Literacy Advance recommended that I visit and see if I could have a class to improve my English. So, I started my first journey through Literacy Advance.
Progressing towards my goals was slow since my husband’s job took us to different cities and countries. However, in 2011 I became American Citizen and in 2017 I received a magna cum laude bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Houston – Victoria.
Now, I decided to return to MAM Literacy Advance because it is a step of my achievements and I want to not only recognize their contribution, but also give back to the community something of the much I received.
You were a student prior to becoming a volunteer. Tell us about that experience. Do you have a favorite memory from that time?
From the first moment I crossed the doors into MAM Literacy Advance of Houston I felt welcome, as Ruth always received me with a big smile. I am very grateful for my instructors Mr. Cox and Mrs. Bergen.
During a conversation, this last instructor told me about a book she was reading, where part of the story took place in my hometown describing many Mexican traditions. She talked with so much enthusiasm about her reading that I decided to stop by the library and get a copy. Several weeks later with much work, I had read my first 450 page book in English: Caramelo by Sandra Cisneros.
What made you decide to return as a volunteer?
As I mention above Literacy Advance is part of my accomplishments, and I wanted at some point to return and give back some of the much I received.
What do you most enjoy about volunteering?
I enjoy immensely the teaching experience and the incredible people that I am meeting.
You are currently leading a beginner-level class. What has that experience been like for you?
I prepared by going over the given Literacy Advance's lesson plan for the first two classes. I try to inject as much humor as I can in class to lighten the atmosphere, to promote community and learning.
What inspires you?
I am inspired by the people, their stories, their strength, and their resilience.
What would you say to other people thinking about volunteering?
Some people think that volunteering is only about giving their time, talent, effort, etc. From my perspective volunteering is much more than giving since one receives as well. I obtain appreciation, gratefulness, and respect from those that need a little from us. It is incredibly rewarding. Just try it!
Thank you, Monica!
Don't forget our previous spotlights!