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Service: When Evelia Finally Got to Go to School

snjm education illustrationBy Mary Rita Rohde, SNJM

Evelia immigrated to the U.S. with her husband and ended up in Sunnyside, WA in the agriculture-rich Yakima Valley. She was a mother with three sons and only a 6th grade education when she began attending English as a Second Language classes at Nuestra Casa, which had been established in 2003 to serve the educational needs of immigrant women. Her youngest preschool son attended the classes with her.

As with so many other immigrants from Mexico, Evelia and her husband came to the U.S. to have a better life for themselves and their children. “A better life” for Evelia and other  immigrants means they have jobs, enough to eat, a decent place to live and the opportunity for their children to go to school.

In the ESL classes, Evelia found out that Nuestra Casa also taught driver’s license classes. She started attending those as well. After passing her driver’s license test on the first try, she gained enough self-confidence to begin attending Nuestra Casa Citizenship classes. And to no one’s surprise, except perhaps her own, she passed the citizenship test on her first try and became a U.S. citizen.

In collaboration with Heritage University, Nuestra Casa helps ESL students enter the university’s GED classes in Sunnyside. Evelia was accepted into the GED program and passed all of her tests, including the English one, receiving her GED in English. (GED classes are also offered in Spanish, but employers often prefer to hire employees who have a GED in English.) Evelia attended other offerings at Nuestra Casa, too, including a Women’s Justice Circle organized through the Intercommunity Peace and Justice Center and a number of health education classes.

Evelia continues to attend English classes whenever she can and enjoys being with other immigrant women who share her desire to learn. Education is a strong motivation in her family: Her eldest son is a freshman at a local community college and intends to graduate from a four-year university, and two younger sons (now in the 6th and 9th grades) also want to pursue university degrees.

Evelia is one of the numerous immigrant women who have taken advantage of the education offered at Nuestra Casa. Without the Sisters of the Holy Names, Nuestra Casa would not exist, since during its first two years most of its funding came from the Sisters’ former Washington Province. During its 13 years, four SNJM Sisters have been in ministry at Nuestra Casa, which is now run by three lay women, including two SNJM Associates. You can learn more about this ministry at http://nuestracasasunnysidewa.com.

Note: Mary Rita Rohde, SNJM, is the Foundress of Nuestra Casa and continues to serve on its board of directors.