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Several years ago, Joel Buendía made a nearly impossible choice – to sacrifice a successful career as a veterinarian, to leave behind a community of family and friends, to flee social and political unrest in his home country of Ecuador – all to give his two year-old daughter the safety and stability to pursue her education in America. Once in New York, he soon learned that the promise of the American Dream was offset by his inability to speak English and the lack of any blueprint for success. Joel was limited to a minimum wage job stocking shelves in a grocery store, the only source of income for his family. He put in the work to make ends meet – oftentimes working from before sunrise till hours after sunset. But being out of the home for so long forced him to find childcare, which could absorb an entire paycheck. His daughter Adelina struggled too, lagging behind her native English-speaking peers in almost all aspects of childhood development.
For the Buendías, and the hundreds we serve, our Early Childhood Education Program is a rare beacon of hope in a landscape of limited opportunities. Adelina was able to enroll in the program by the age of three, giving her father the opportunity to work while she remained safely at school. In just six months, she was able to learn English and improve her rate of linguistic and cognitive development.
Yet her family’s poverty still threatened to limit Adelina’s chances at future success. Most children who grow up below the poverty line will never catch up to their more affluent peers. We worked with Joel to close the achievement gap before it even began for his daughter by treating his own development as a key factor in his daughter’s academic growth. Joel joined our ESL program at our Corona ECE center, empowering him and other parents to be the best advocates for their children.
With his improved English, Joel is working towards one of his biggest goals: completing a college education in the United States.
“I want to become a veterinarian again and work with animals,” he said. “I need to speak English and I will continue taking ESL classes so I can give me daughter the life she deserves.”
Adelina’s success is inseparable from her family’s well-being, a fact that calls for multi-generational solutions for the intersecting needs of kids and their parents. By providing opportunities for advancement to entire families, children like Adelina are successfully unlocking their American dreams.