Literacy Changes Lives
Zailyn grew up in Cuba where she went to college and became a health-care professional, which included extensive experience in a hospital.
In her mid-twenties, she came to Maine as a refugee, living first in Portland and then in the Lewiston-Auburn area. As is true with many of our students, her first jobs were entry-level: housekeeping work and then briefly as a cashier in a big-box store.
When she came to Literacy Volunteers-Androscoggin three years ago, she was trying to use her health-care training in the U.S. For four months, we did something unusual – we assigned two tutors to her. We did this because she was getting ready to take a course at Central Maine Community College to earn a medical certificate.
One tutor, Barbara Marston, worked with Zailyn on the medical concepts she needed to know in English. The other, Marj Patrick, a retired journalist, worked with her on English conversation skills, also a way to assist her in earning the certificate, which Zailyn completed readily.
Marj then continued tutoring her. They worked together on her job search: updating her resume, filling out job applications and role-playing before job interviews.
“It was quite a rollercoaster,” Marj said, since it included one near-miss when a likely job seemed to be her student’s, only to fall through.
Fortunately, a few weeks later, Zailyn found a job opening that was a better match. They certainly celebrated when she was hired. She has been in that job for almost two years.
“One of the pleasures in working with Zailyn is that she keeps setting another goal and another,” Marj said. After earning the certificate, then completing the job search, Zailyn’s next goal was U.S. citizenship.
Last year, they worked for weeks on the draft of that detailed application. Zailyn filed it in December. Immediately, the student and tutor began the next step, learning the required 100 citizenship questions. An applicant for U.S. citizenship may be asked any 10 of those questions, so he or she needs to study all of them.
In early March, Zailyn traveled to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office in South Portland for her citizenship test. She passed easily. That day, she was told she would receive a letter soon about her naturalization ceremony. But nothing happened. Federal offices were closing. Maine was shutting down because of the pandemic.
More than 13 weeks later, Zailyn was told to return to the USCIS site to be sworn in under very different conditions: no guests, masks required, bring your own pen and socially distance for an outdoor ceremony. But she and Marj were pleased that the June 10th ceremony completed that goal. Since then, this new citizen also has become a registered voter.
Click here to view Zailyn and Marj on YouTube.
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