EA Stories: Karla Zelaya
15 years ago, Karla Zelaya made a long and difficult journey from El Salvador to the United States. Her worst fear was entering a country where she could not speak any of the language. She did not know how she would survive in a new country with limited education, but she was determined to make a better life for herself and her family.
“I started night school to learn the basics,” Karla said. “I heard about Educational Alliance from a friend in the park. She had a daughter and talked about schools. She was an immigrant from the Dominican Republic. I asked her how does she go to school and raise a little girl? She said they provide childcare and ever since then I got involved.”
Today, Karla is an extremely involved parent at Educational Alliance as a member of the parent policy council, and a classroom volunteer. She is also an immigrant embodying the very values and ideals that make our country great, letting hard work break barriers and build bridges.
The services at Educational Alliance allowed Karla to accomplish her goal and get her diploma because she had childcare for her son while she took classes and studied. “Educational Alliance has been a big help for me because I could be able to go to my English classes first while my son was in childcare. When I became fluent, I was able to take my High School Equivalency classes while he was in childcare.”
“After all those years of studying and struggling and working very hard with math, and reading, and writing, I finally got my diploma. I went to take my test in two days—I took it two days—and I felt terrible after taking the test because I felt I’m a loser, like I didn’t pass because it was so hard, and then I went home very tired, and very stressed, and very disappointed. I said to my husband, ‘I think I failed.’ It was so hard, and my head hurt, and my stomach hurt, and I was so tired and exhausted.
Then, to my surprise, in four weeks I was so anxious to know what really happened- at least maybe I passed one subject or something—I was screaming like crazy when I got in the mail the letter for me from the Department of Education, and then I opened it up and I saw that it was my diploma and it was so—you know—I was overjoyed and I screamed, and I laughed, and I cried. For me getting my diploma was like opening a door, a door that was very hard to open because of having a very low grade from back home. I felt like going back to school because I didn’t do high school back home, so I started over like a new student so for me it’s a big accomplishment, and a dream that came true, and hopefully there are more dreams to come.”
Karla’s unique journey fits into the collage of experiences that each member of the Educational Alliance community has faced in one-way or another, whether immigrant or a native born citizen. Karla is a role model and symbol for what we stand for and support. Dreams become a reality with hard work. Karla and many others continue to break barriers.
“For me, getting my diploma is like opening a door—a door that was very hard to open.” Karla’s next step will be to earn a college degree. Educational Alliance will continue to be there every step of the way.