Dedication, Curiosity, and Lifelong Learning: Azucena’s English at Work Story

Even small life changes can be daunting, but Azucena Plummer, a graduate of the 2022 Northgate English at Work cohort, has demonstrated incredible love, curiosity, and bravery throughout enormous changes as she has moved countries, changed careers, and devoted herself to learning an entirely new language.  

Azucena came to the United States about a decade ago. In Mexico, she had established a career for herself as a lawyer, but when her parents, siblings, and extended family moved to the United States, she had to choose between her successful career and being close to her family. She said it was a difficult decision, but in the end, she chose her family. She began working at Northgate Markets 6 years ago in the Human Resources department. The HR department is about “caring for people and getting them the support that they need” which is something Azucena is passionate about doing.

Throughout the pandemic, she used her position in HR to help employees get the support they needed. She said it was challenging work, but she is someone who “always wants to do her best to help people and be there for them.” Azucena is now a Scan Coordinator at Northgate Markets, where she oversees maintaining consistent pricing across product labels, barcodes, and checkout. In the future, she hopes to be promoted to work in the Operations Department to combine her passion for HR and her knowledge about the workings of the store. To achieve her goals, she was eager to join the English at Work class that Northgate offered in collaboration with the National Immigration Forum. 

In reflecting on her experience in the English at Work class and in her career, Ms. Plummer’s deep love of learning shone through. She says that the best parts of her job are learning from her coworkers and customers, solving problems for the store, and assisting customers. She knows that improving her English skills will allow her to help customers even more effectively in addition to advancing her career at Northgate. 

Azucena’s unrelenting dedication to learning was an inspiration to her classmates in the English at Work class. She reflected on a time when she made the choice to practice her English, even though it was difficult. One day, when a customer asked Azucena a question in English and Azucena asked for clarification, the customer told her that they could ask in Spanish if it would be easier for her. Putting to work the patience and persistence the EAW program encourages, Azucena insisted that they discuss the question in English so that Azucena could strengthen her English skills. Sometimes, Azucena feels self-conscious about her limited vocabulary, but she knows that the best way for her to improve is to practice. She says, “I am overcoming my fears and speaking English even when it is not perfect.”

I am overcoming my fears and speaking English even when it is not perfect.

Azucena is incredibly grateful to her teacher, Maria Ramos, who was full of “passion and patience.” She reflects, “To learn anything, a good teacher is almost most important.” Azucena especially appreciated her teacher’s dedication to following up and finding thorough answers to student’s questions and her use of breakout rooms to stimulate exclusively English practice.  

She would like to thank Northgate for their flexible scheduling so that she was able to attend all her classes from home and do her homework. She has a lot of “respect for Northgate for helping their associates to build skills and jump ahead in the company.” She thinks that English at Work is a powerful opportunity that Northgate offers to its associates, and she wants more employees to benefit from it. She said “this course is really a good key for people like me from other countries to learn more. It was a beautiful class, and it was always exciting.” She emphasized that she learns so much from everyone she meets in her life, and she loved learning from her coworkers and English at Work classmates in class discussions and breakout rooms.

Hear Azucena’s remarks at her
English at Work graduation ceremony.

In the future, Azucena is excited to take more classes with Northgate and even return to college.

She told us in her confident and eloquent English and with her characteristic determination and passion, “If I do this class, I know I can do more.

Ms. Azucena Plummer graduated from the 2022 Northgate English at Work cohort in July. Her enthusiasm, curiosity, and kindness fostered a warm class culture and a rich learning experience for all. She is a lifelong learner who we all can look up to as an example. We look forward to following Azucena’s story, and we know she will accomplish wonderful things. Congratulations, Azucena! 

The National Immigration Forum would like to thank Caroline Zdanowski, Integration Programs intern, for highlighting this story.  

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