Affordable Education Gives Young Immigrant a Great Start
Northern Essex’s affordability and English as a Second Language (ESL) Program, says Karla Cruz, were the keys to unlocking her educational future. “Attending a college I could afford was so important to me,” says the 21-year-old Lawrence resident who supports herself with three — sometimes four — jobs. “I don’t know what I would have done without Northern Essex and everyone here.”
Karla was almost 19 when she moved to the United States from her native Dominican Republic to join her mother who had married and moved to Lawrence. With just a high school diploma, one year of college, and very little understanding of the English language she arrived to the unknown.
“I knew I had to learn English right away in order to get a job,” she says. “Culturally, education is important.”
She immediately enrolled in ESL classes. With the help of the PACE program, a federally-funded student support services program, Karla moved on to developmental classes.
She credits her college reading instructor with teaching her how to write a proper essay in English. That knowledge combined with her experiences using her English as a restaurant and store cashier and bank teller gave her the confidence to pursue a college degree.
Karla graduated in May of 2013 with an Associate of Science Degree in Business Transfer. She is currently working on her bachelor’s in business.
Last summer she was invited to attend a month-long discover law program at Suffolk University. When she returned to NECC she worked as a work-study for the paralegal program.
“After that I knew I wanted to go to law school,” she says. “I would love to work with and help other Hispanic immigrants.”