My family came to US as refugees and I needed to learn English in order to integrate and succeed in the society. I learned the basics of the English language in community college and when I started JMU I still needed to improve it further. I started seeking resources that I could utilize to help me with college level English. I have discovered that JMU had a writing center, where I used to go a lot to get help. That is where I met Kristen who had special touch interacting with international students and students whose native language was not English. She worked with several other students who also wanted to improve their English skills and we organized a meeting time and start meeting on regular basis. That’s how we started Multilingual Writers’ Community. I joined MWC my first year of college and was active member until I graduated.
By joining MWC my goal was to improve my writing which I ultimately achieved. However, there were so many other benefits that came from MWC and it will take me all day to list all of them. For instance, at the end of our meetings we used to read our essays to each other, where we all commented on grammatical error and anything else that needed to be improved. As we went through this exercise we learned from each other and our writing improved every time. Personally, I am still learning English and adapting to American culture and MWC was a great opportunity to expand my knowledge about American cultural as well other cultures. In our meeting we had students from different countries and it was always exciting to hear each other background. Also our small conversation/discussion that we had during our group meetings helped me to communicate better with my peers. First two years of my undergraduate I did free writing, however as I entered my junior year more and more of my free time was occupied working on application for medical school that required great deal of work. Each school had their own specific essay questions pertaining to their school. Also as honor student I needed to write my thesis in order to finish my honor program, which also put pressure on my free time. Those two years I missed free writing but on other hand I did a lot of academic oriented writing which I learned a great deal from.
MWC definitely helped to expand my writing skills and also improve my critical thinking skills. As a result of being involved with MWC I feel better prepared on my field of studies because it gives an upper hand when it comes writing research paper or reviewing scientific articles. I am glad that I joined MWC and encourage others to take full advantages of the benefits it offers to students.
Ahmad is currently completing a post baccalaureate year at Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine.
Writing – the MWC is a group that brings people together for many reasons and at many stages as writers. I am consistently surprised about how my students get here and what they want to do. This morning I am happy to have a native English speaker here, a bilingual student who wants to be a better writer to “impress” her professors, and a writer new to this culture. Seeing interest in writing as a community brings me great joy as I try to meet the needs of students and to offer them something different from their traditional academic pursuits. I also appreciate the opportunity to dialogue with other student writers as I realize that in my doctoral pursuits I am also a student writer.
Getting to the heart of writing without teachers is what this effort is all about. I see myself as a third party, a guide. I am neither these writers’ teacher nor peer, but a facilitator of academic life experience. So, what do I do? I share my life experience and lessons acquired over years of trials and joys. One fact that I want to think about further is that I was not a stellar student when I was in high school and undergraduate study. Yet here I am mediating learning experiences and skills development for students seeking to cultivate their own learning. It could be that I am now someone I wish I had met in 1996 when I started college. How would my school life – my life – have been different?
For one thing, I probably would have benefitted from feeling like I belonged to an academic community. To have the attention of an experienced learner, an expert would have guided me through rough patches. Of course, most of my undergraduate experience was spent searching for community, so an academic focused community would have played to different interests and strengths than where I ended up finding community. As it was, I found a social community which I would be remiss not to acknowledge for the benefits of learning how to be a leader among friends and peers. I learned to listen to what people really need and to organize relevant events. Both of those skills have provided stones in the foundation of my career.
My time with writers in the Multilingual Writers’ Community setting has been primarily satisfying as a witness to the depth, breadth and motivation of the writers’ interests. Coming from diverse backgrounds, the writers met her by way of writing – arguably one of the most critical skills in academic self-expression in US education. The role I see for myself is cheerleader and developer. Developer sounds like I shape some untouched landscape into my own vision – so I will revise to claim that I caretake. The writer has a unique vision and bring experiences, tools and goals. I caretake the process of actualization.
My academics during sophomore year were a deciding point whether I can accept the challenge that honor program put forward. I knew it would not be easy to make it through this year because I was taking challenging classes such as organic chemistry and bio-chemistry. I was actually excited and looking forward to taking these classes. Unfortunately, I had to go through some serious social reforms. My freshman year I met my best friend. We both had a passion for medicine and were hard workers. We planned to be roommates for the upcoming year. However, there were some aspects of our friendship I was not comfortable with.
Even though I was a freshman, I was more mature than most of my peers. This is due to my experiences living in various countries and the fact that I am the oldest sibling in the family with responsibilities such as contributing to the income of the family and being a guardian for my sister and brothers in school. When I started college I had to carry these responsibilities over and keep helping my family to progress. In addition, I needed to keep my school performance up. Therefore, being a freshman I already had a lot on my plate but my best friend excluded these factors from our friendship. Also our cultural background differed greatly. However, his perspective was understandable in that as a freshman students party and enjoy college life. Even though I did have some exposure to such life, I could not afford to spend most of my time doing this as my friend did our first year of college. Thus, all these factors in our friendship started altering our relationship but I still enjoyed his company and hoped that maybe over the summer break he might change his attitude and become more mature.
Here we are our sophomore year moving into a new apartment and leaving behind college dorm life. I had spent my summer participating in the SMDEP program at Yale University and had time to explore myself further and learn from it. Surely enough I had changed dramatically. What I had valued my freshman year I no longer valued. I hoped to see the same in my dear friend. Unfortunately we were diverging from each other further and further. What he valued was not valuable to me and it was true the other way around. Even living in the same apartment it was difficult to see each other due to our busy schedules. The only time we interacted with each other was on the weekend but that died out too because the group of friends we hang-out with was different as well. All these factors weakened our friendship bond and ultimately ended our friendship, which I think was good for both of us.
The passion that drives me everyday to continue studying and giving the best of me to people around me is my American dream. Before I came to US, I set goals that would help me to make my dream came true. My American dream is to be a doctor and organize a group of doctors that are willing to help me and going with me into far communities that has little or no access to medicine. The first place that I want to go with this group of doctors is to little towns in Bolivia. People[DS1] who live in these little towns are not use to medicine because it is expensive or is not available in the area. They grow with traditional medicine and every time they get sick they drink herb teas or use other plants, but sometimes this is not enough to prevent and cure many existing diseases. My plan is [DS2] to go to these towns and be a part of their community; I want to convince as many people as I can to go to see a doctor when they feel sick, in some cases before it is too late. I also want to emphasize the importance of vaccines in children, and preventable medicine. While we are there, I want to check and see every one’s health, and treat them if is necessary. My other plan is to create more health centers and facilities in the US, where people can be check if they feel sick or need medical attention. No matter if they have no insurance, low economic status, nor if their legal status is unknown.
By Inmar Romero
I was born during a bloody civil war in El Salvador. Due to the political situation of the country, I spent 14 years without my parents because they immigrated to the United States to create a better life for their family. At the age of 17 and at significant financial disadvantage to my family, I reunited with them in the US. Like many Latino immigrant children, I did not have an American cultural map to show me how to be successful in this country. When I started 10th grade in high school, I knew from my life experience, that I had to be self-reliant and focus on the one thing I suspected would help me rise above my circumstances: education.
My determination to be an educated human being and my resilient spirit helped me start a whole new life in an unfamiliar culture, with parents I did not know. Throughout my three years in high school, there were two key individuals who taught me the skills I needed to succeed in the U.S. Mrs. Ferrall, the librarian at Gar-Field High School, taught me research writing and about American culture. Mrs. Bushman, Newcomer ESL teacher, taught me the basic English I needed to understand the academic content. They were the ones who helped me find the light of hope at the end of the tunnel when I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life in the U.S. I strive to replicate the compassion, patience, and talent that I saw in those key individuals.
I had a goal in mind to get a college education. I was the first member of my family to go to college. I wanted to attain an education because I did not want to keep following the same cycle of many Latino families. So many of my friends and family were satisfied with simply graduating from high school; they would take the first job that came along no matter its potential. Since education is not available to them, they pursue whatever is accessible, like gang affiliation. I believe this pattern is a trap that Latino immigrants fall into. Without the key people who bridged the gap in my knowledge of opportunities, I might not be writing this essay today. Education is the tool for social change in helping people that are living in the shadows. I want to work with these disengaged students to break the cycle that many immigrant families cannot escape.
In going to a four-year college, I changed the dynamic in my family, which is the first step to community change. My younger sister was on the path to pursue marriage instead of an education when I shared with her this new possibility of going to college. She is currently a junior at the University of Virginia’s College at Wise. In serving to communicate the opportunities of higher education with my sister, I recognized that change has to happen one person at a time. I care about my community, my friends, and my family. In my experience in college, I have met people outside of those parameters who have made me recognize my own experience in other groups of people. From personal experience, I acknowledged the need for key educators in the lives of young people, particularly immigrant children.
Educational inequality is a reality because not every student has the same resources and the same opportunities to continue to post secondary education. Based on my experience in the classroom volunteering in Harrisonburg City Public Schools, as a substitute teacher in Prince William Public Schools and Fairfax County Public Schools, I saw that minority students start school with greater educational needs than other students. Having benefited from mentors as an immigrant student in the US, I want to serve as a key individual to work with immigrant students, their parents, teachers, and administrators. My passion for education inspires me to share the knowledge I have gained with students whose situations reflects my own.
Through people caring about me, I learned to care about other people. For the last ten months I have been working for the Alternative Text Program in the Office of Disability Services. I have understood the power of helping others. My role in the office is to provide universal access for students in the JMU Community. I convert text into audio formats for students with print-related disabilities, and I also work for the students who struggle to succeed in college. I learned, in a pragmatic way, to work with students in one-to-one meetings, to manage the Alt-Text Program, and to work in a team. I have the skills and characteristics that are essential for those that work with students from diverse backgrounds. In my current position as an Alternative Text Specialist, I have learned to motivate students and develop strategies to assist students with disabilities to excel in college. I honor the skills I have attained in this office; however, the time has come for me to move on to get the credentials to become an ESL Specialist. My history, my passion, and my future are all bound up in education. The more I learn the more I want to know, and as I succeed I want to share my success with my community.