Elena is starting a new job this week. But she isn’t going to quit her English classes through B5. She asked for a shift that allows her to still attend the week-day morning classes.

Elena came to the US as a refugee from Cuba in 2013. Early on, she attended English classes. But she needed to begin to work to support her family, so she soon quit those classes. Over the years, Elena worked as a caregiver. She only worked for people who spoke Spanish. She even became a US citizen, which meant she had to take that test in English. Other than the intense study she did for that, she didn’t work on improving her language skills.

Last year, when one of her clients died, and the other moved away, she found herself unemployed. Her lack of skill in English made applying for another job difficult.

Elena remembers thinking, “Oh, my goodness. I have been here for many years. And I can’t speak English. I can’t talk to anybody. I can’t get an interview in English.”

It was a very discouraging time for her. She explored some options with WorkSource, and eventually found the English classes at B5.

Attending B5’s LEP Pathways classes helped Elena improve her English. But she also found community, friendship, and the confidence she needed.

“Now I did an interview in English and I pass it. . . I can answer questions. I can talk to the people in the store. I can answer my phone in English.”

She not only improved her speaking, reading, writing, and listening skills, B5’s program includes digital literacy. So Elena learned skills she needed to fill out on-line applications. And volunteer Valerie Schultz helped her practice for her interview. B5’s Digital Literacy teacher, Jenni Alexander, explained that Elena did the hard work of finding a new job, “She has worked hard to do that on her own for several years. We have played a role in helping her build her English skills and confidence.”

Elena feels her hard work to improve her skills is a good example to her 16-year-old daughter. Her daughter is proud of how well her mother is doing. Someday, Elena would like to get her GED.

“I want to give my daughter a better life than I have. . . I want to give my daughter an example. I can do this. You can do it better.”

Elena and teacher Jenni Alexander