Carmen Navarro

New Haven Adult School

When Carmen Navarro left Mexico for the United States, she knew she was not choosing the easy path in life. It certainly would not be as comfortable as remaining in her hometown of Juchipila, Zacatecas, Mexico, where her loving father, younger brother and six sisters lived their middle-class life. But education, her father insisted, was what was best and what would prepare her for any of life’s circumstances. In her town, Carmen had already availed herself of the limited educational offerings: typing shorthand, writing, cooking, arts, crafts, and sewing. After graduation, she had worked as an attorney’s secretary and as a warehouse assistant accountant. Now it was time to move ahead, and emigrating seemed to hold the most promise for this young widow and her two-year-old son.

Once in the US, living in Union City, California, the promise of a better life began to take shape, as she met the man who would become her second husband. Together they began to build a neighborhood restaurant as their means of livelihood, and there Carmen spent all her hours working when she was not busy caring for her home, son, and new baby. Fortunately, as her older son reached school age, bilingual education became available at Decoto School; this was a blessing as he spoke only Spanish at that time. However, Carmen herself still lacked English proficiency and felt that her lack of English would preclude her from any satisfactory future advancement. So into her busy life came the memory of her father’s counsel – education – and she began ESL classes at New Haven Adult School, with the goal of taking every class offered to help her achieve skill in English.

Carmen is an intelligent, industrious person! Her teachers, Barbara Day and Joyce Sullivan, so impressed with her commitment and willingness to struggle, directed her to GED classes, and mentored her along the way. Carmen was not sure if she had the ability to pursue a GED certificate, but followed their advice. When math seemed to be an obstacle, she spoke up and asked for help. John Sullivan tutored her to success, and she passed all the subjects handily.

With her GED certificate in hand, there was no stopping Carmen. She set her goals high, as high as her dreams, but kept her eye on reality, making steady progress in smaller achievable steps. Two growing sons needing attention forced her to put her dream on hold; postponed, but not abandoned.

In 1988, she succeeded in getting a part-time job as an ESL Teacher Assistant, a tremendous accomplishment after learning English through the ESL classes. That opened many doors for Carmen. She continued learning English and more about American culture. Kathy Alsterlind, Program Manager, presented Carmen with her next challenge, recommending evening classes at Chabot Community College. When it seemed impossible to fit that into her already hectic schedule, Principal Linda Eguina generously allowed Carmen flexible hours so that she could attend the college classes. Only then did Carmen have the confidence to begin at Chabot, eventually gaining her degree as an Associate of Arts in Behavioral Science.

Later when Carmen’s older son gained his Bachelor of Arts degree, she had something new to ponder. She started feeling the urge to continue her education at California State University, East Bay. This turned out to be one of her most difficult challenges, as she was working full time as a Test Clerk at NHAS, helping her husband run the family business, and talking care of her home and family. However, the PACE program, established for full time hard-working adults, was Carmen’s salvation. Because of the program and her own tenacity­ – for two years she has been taking 16 to 20 units each quarter – she is about to achieve her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Liberal Studies with a Minor in Business Administration and an Option in Early Childhood Development. In June 2007, she is going to be the proudest woman and mother in the world when both she and her younger son to receive their degrees from the same university on the same day.

Carmen is now pursuing her Adult Education Credential at San Jose State University, as well as working as a Family Service assistant at NHAS and teaching computer skills to the Spanish-speaking community in Union City. Carmen perceives Adult Education as her future career. There she feels she will have the opportunity to inspire students to pursue their education as Joyce and Barbara did for her. She feels her own experiences as an ESL student and her struggles as an immigrant provide her with the ability to understand how people feel when they arrive in this country. She is also convinced that by sharing her experiences, she will be able to motivate others and serve as an inspiration for ESL students to achieve success in this country. Not finished, now that she knows there is so much more out there, and her world and horizons have opened, one day Carmen is planning to pursue her Master’s degree in sociology.

Carmen has proven that her early decision to take the difficult road and seek education was the right one. With both sons having gained university degrees, and she herself about to achieve the same, many, many promises have been fulfilled, the future bright with even more! Carmen recognizes that all these gains are the result of years of her own dedication and hard work, but she is also extremely grateful for all the assistance she received along the way. She thanks the ESL teachers at NHAS, the unconditional support of Principal Nancy George, Program Manager Karen Barroso, Kathy Alsterlind and co-workers. They helped to make it possible for her to reach her educational and career goals. Although her father cannot be there in person, she knows he will be at her graduation in spirit, so proud of her because she has accomplished more than she ever dreamed possible in a foreign country.

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