For many immigrants, leaving their country of birth in order to start a new life requires courage, determination, and sacrifice. These are characteristics that perfectly describe Inocente Saldivar, an English at Work participant from this spring, whom we had the pleasure to interview recently. Inocente shared his heartfelt value for his family, which encouraged him to take on a new chapter in his life. He moved to the United States for better access to jobs and career development, to ensure a good education for his children and a secure future for his family.
Inocente has been working at Whole Foods Market in Port Chester, NY for six years now. He works in the Prepared Foods Department and loves how familiar he has become with the various products at Whole Foods. His classmates raved about Inocente’s pizza, making it the top recommendation when the teacher asked what they should try when visiting the store. He shares, “I feel like my job has given me the chance to practice and improve my English skills, especially pronunciation and communication with customers and co-workers”. In addition, his improved ability to read in English helped him develop technological skills at work. Inocente expressed a sense of gratitude for the opportunity to study English at work and gives credit to these classes for boosting his confidence and self-esteem. Inocente’s sacrifice and determination was clearly illustrated by his perfect attendance and active participation in every class. During the first few weeks of the training, he welcomed a new baby. Inocente managed to remain persistent and focused, despite having to adapt to new and challenging realities. He is an essential worker who, during the COVID-19 pandemic, had to juggle full time work with shifting responsibilities, and a new family dynamic that required homeschooling his older children and caring for a newborn.
Inocente shared that learning English has been a blessing in his life, because it has helped improve his communication skills both at work and in his everyday life. He shares, “I feel more comfortable reaching out to my kids’ teachers with any questions or concerns I have”. Inocente added that in the past, when he was asked to go to his kids’ school for presentations or one-on-one meetings with teachers, he felt nervous and timid. But stronger command of English gave him the confidence he needed to be involved in his children’s education and better support them. He also loves being able to communicate well during doctor or dentist appointments. Inocente shared that another valuable skill he learned in his English classes was the ability to speak in the proper tense. He felt that he always had a difficult time differentiating between the present, past, and future tenses.
Inocente was also part of our pilot cohort a few years ago, which he completed successfully. He returned to continue to build his English skills this year, which shows his dedication to self-improvement, and strong motivation to perform better and grow on the job. “I feel supported and valued by my employer. I feel grateful to have the opportunity to learn a new language”, he enthusiastically told us, and added that he plans to apply for a promotion in the future. He feels it is important for everyone at the workplace to have the skill of communicating with one another, because this way people can begin to share their culture, their background, and their interests in order to become better connected. Inocente highly recommends the classes to his colleagues who need to improve their English. From personal experience, he believes it will boost overall confidence and spirit, and it will help everyone better interact with customers, employers, and friends. And, more than ever, he feels more informed and present in the lives of his kids.
The National Immigration Forum would like to thank Kevin Rojas De León, Integration Programs intern, for capturing this story.