I was born and raised in El Salvador, and lived there until I was 22. I attended school up to the 6th grade and then got a job at 12 years old to help my family and especially my mom because she was a single mom. I couldn’t do much at the time but later I was able to work at restaurants and at homes taking care of kids. I met my husband in the same city where I worked. After we got married, he would travel from the states to El Salvador constantly and he didn’t want to be going back and forth so he convinced me that it would be better to go back with him to Los Angeles and stay. It was very hard and painful to leave my family but I was married and had children and that’s why I decided to come along with my husband. Once we had settled in Los Angeles, I later heard about South Central LAMP through a friend and she told me that it was a school for adults and children. I immediately came to see if I could fill out an application to enroll myself and my children. Before coming to South Central LAMP, I was very nervous because I didn’t know any English. My husband gave me strength and motivated me to go and learn because it would help me in the long run.
My first year was the hardest because I didn’t know much. My second year was better and I learned a lot with my English teacher at the time. Now I am in my third year with Sr. Cathy learning advanced English and I keep learning new skills on how to communicate with people. It becomes a struggle when I am talking to people outside of the school who only speak English, but it’s an opportunity to practice. This program has helped me with my children as well and I have applied a lot of what I have learned in my home. The personnel and everyone who is involved in this organization has treated me so well. I am always determined to give back and help in any way that I can. South Central LAMP also helped me with my self-esteem. I am a woman who is always happy and I like having a smile on my face even if I am going through problems in my life. I have become more confident as a woman and in the way I educate my children. Others have seen the improvements I have made since I first arrived. My husband and friends always tell me that they are so proud of me.
Before coming here, I was used to yelling at my eldest son when he wouldn’t listen or would do something wrong, but Helen, the Family Advocate, has taught me the importance of self-control, how to talk things out with our children and demonstrate to them that you are a parent they can count on. My children have learned from that approach as well and they understand. I believe that if a mother is patient and is determined to communicate with her children, there will be positive results. I also appreciate the Parent Child Interactive Literacy Activities (PCILA) program because the mothers have the opportunity to spend time and interact with their children in the classroom. My son learned how to speak English here and especially through the PCILA program. Whenever we read a book at home, he makes sure that I read to him the way we are taught at South Central LAMP. I also strive to do activities in the house, the teachers show us how to be creative at home and my kids enjoy it very much.
One of the things that I value the most about the agency is the support we are given from the teachers and the staff. They accept us for who we are no matter our personality or background. The resources that South Central LAMP provides are very helpful. I appreciate everything this program does for the families. Recognizing that attending this agency is free of cost, this program does so much for the families and I don’t have the words to express how thankful I am. My children are treated very nicely by all the teachers and my daughter who is 3 years old has improved in her behavior. My friends ask me if I take her to school, and I tell them that I do and where. They now want to come and join the program.
This is my third year and I will soon be transitioning from the program. I feel very happy because I have learned so much but at the same time I feel sad because I will no longer be here or be around my friends every day. I didn’t have any friends before coming to the agency and I have developed many wonderful relationships in the classroom. It won’t be the same but I know that South Central LAMP’s doors are always open and I would like to come back and help in any way that I can. I have never known what it feels like to work hard and get an education and I am excited to experience that when I graduate from the 3-year program. This has only given me the desire to continue practicing all the skills I’ve learned and my dream is to continue studying.
The advice I would give to new or continuing mothers in the program is to keep going and never give up, it is possible. It was a struggle for me when I first arrived with my two kids and my daughter was only 1 year of age, but I wanted to pursue my dream and learn. With hard work and dedication, it can be achieved. It takes some time to get used to in the beginning but like my mother always said, “El tiempo es oro.” “Time is gold.” The house duties can be done when we get home after school or the next day. The opportunity to go to school and getting an education doesn’t always come so easily and it is important to take advantage when you have the chance. Time goes by so fast, I remember sitting where the first year mothers are currently sitting and now I am a couple of months away from finishing up my third year. I would advise them to work hard and not care about what other people think and ignore negative comments. They will never accomplish anything if they pay attention to what others think. Being able to learn English is a great opportunity and it is very important to know the language in this country, and apply it in whatever we do and wherever we go.
Thank you to everyone at South Central LAMP for all the help and support you give to the women in the program and for seeing us like family. There are so many people who do not know about these kinds of programs, I was one of them. I hope that the agency will be able to provide more programs in the future. I would definitely come back.