Elmer moved to the United States from El Salvador six years ago so that he could support his mother and sister. At first, he was employed as a low-skill worker at a race track. He found it scary, living in a strange country without his old support system. However, he felt confident that he would be able to take advantage of new opportunities and find success if he remained focused and determined. Elmer likes learning new things and views English as a tool to access more opportunities. This past fall, he enrolled in the intermediate level course of CASA’s Life Skills ESOL Program. Since then, Elmer has gone on to participate in four consecutive sessions of classes and progressed to our advanced level of English classes. He is a model student who is rarely absent and who actively engages in lesson activities. 

His positive attitude is contagious amongst his peers, and his hard work has paid off. Elmer says, “I have a good idea in my mind now about English. It’s difficult to explain, but thoughts are now flowing in my mind in English.” Upon enrolling in ESOL classes, Elmer learned about CASA’s Vocational Training Program and attended the Saturday Building Maintenance Engineer course offered at our Rockville Welcome Center this past fall. He also participated in computer literacy classes at CASA’s Pine Ridge Community Center. Now that Elmer has advanced his language and computer skills and earned a professional certificate, he is ready to pursue a career in his new home. While he still misses his family in El Salvador, he has made friends here and looks forward to what the future holds.

Ahmed moved to Silver Spring in 2017. He holds an advanced degree in finance and accounting from his native country of Cameroon and initially enjoyed a successful career but was eventually forced to emigrate due to political persecution. When Ahmed arrived in the United States, he spoke only French and relied on his English-speaking friends to make it through a typical day. He soon learned about CASA’s Welcome Centers and became a member of the Silver Spring center, where he was connected with employment opportunities and began learning English. 

Class lessons focused on practical exercises that helped him communicate on the job. Despite the profound changes he has experienced, Ahmed is happy with his new life. He feels fortunate that he has an aunt and a sister living nearby and appreciates that he can get African food at local restaurants. At first, Ahmed made ends meet by working temporary jobs such as moving and landscaping. With time he obtained more stable employment packing pallets at a warehouse in Jessup. Due to his strong attendance and exemplary participation in the Workforce ESOL Program at CASA’s Silver Spring Welcome Center, Ahmed earned a scholarship to enroll in our intensive Life Skills ESOL Program. Over the next year and a half, he participated in six consecutive sessions, advancing for beginner to high intermediate level. As his English skills improved, Ahmed also continued to develop his professional skills. He is currently employed in a skilled position cleaning the machinery for a pasta company in Rockville. He is now eligible to attend CASA’s most advanced level of ESOL classes but is unable to due to his work schedule. However, Ahmed is far from the end of his journey. His goal is to continue improving his English and attend college if needed so that he can ultimately utilize his financial degree in his new country.