"I was born in Russia in 1957. My mother died when I was 2 years old. My grandparents brought me up. They were poor people. My grandpa taught me to be strong no matter what.
"In 1977, I married and in 1978, my son, Denis, was born. When my son was 3 years old, my husband died. From then on, my life in Russia was a nightmare. I worked two jobs to provide for my son.
"The time flew very fast. My Denis was about to graduate from high school. I needed money for his future education. It was really a difficult time for me. Thoughts swirled in my head -- how can I help my son? I wanted his future life to be successful and prosperous.
“In November 2000, I came to Bakersfield, California. I wanted to find a job as soon as possible to earn money for my son’s education, and me but without English language, it was impossible. I came to Bakersfield Adult School (BAS) on November 27, 2000. I was enrolled in an ESL class, but my vocabulary was absolutely zero. I was about to quit school, but Ms. Bertha Crow, the ESL teacher, and Tish Harvick, the instructional assistant, told me "don't give up." They were very kind and patient with me. They were the first American people who cheered for me and accepted me the way I was. I was so grateful for them.
"I remember Mr. Carey, my ESL Level 5 teacher. He was so friendly and my class liked him for his jokes and songs. After finishing the ESL program, I started classes to earn a U. S. high school diploma. All my teachers were always friendly and willing to help me any time I needed them.
"I earned my American high school diploma and vocational certificate of completion for an Instructional Assistant in January 2002. I went to Bakersfield College and earned bookkeeping and clerical assistant certificates.
"I was hired by BAS as an instructional assistant in August, 2002. Bakersfield Adult School is an incredible place - you always feel that you are very special, your job is very important to the school, and your attitude is always appreciated.
"In April, 2004, I became an American Citizen. Every day I wake up and tell myself: "I love America."
“In 2005, the adult school offered me a position as clerical specialist for the CALPRO Central Valley Professional Development Center (PDC). I have worked at BAS for almost 4 years, and I am so happy to be part of the BAS team. We have wonderful people here. They are very devoted to their students, and to their jobs. This is a great place to work, to improve my English, and to make friends.
"In 2007, my son is going to graduate from the Economical Academy in Russia to become a business manager in the computer field. In a couple years, I expect him to legally join me in America. "Thank you, America! I love you!”
Irina still works at Bakersfield Adult School as an instructional assistant in the classroom and a clerical specialist at the CALPRO professional center. She continues to strive to improve herself preparing for a career in graphic design and saving enough money to pay the debts she incurred coming to the United States.
As the clerical specialist in the professional development center, Irina has proven herself invaluable because of her organizational skills and her ability to work independently. "Irina has the ability to learn quickly and retain what she learns. Also, she is always eager to acquire new skills. She is a fantastic help to me in running the professional development center and her English improves every day. I know she will succeed in achieving her future goals," said Jan Minot, CALPRO PDC manager.