WEB EXCLUSIVE: Dying to Learn

By staff January 1, 2003

Hispanics are not the only immigrants sitting in cramped ESOL (English as a Second Language) classrooms reciting possessive pronouns. About 30 percent of Sarasota County's ESOL students are from other nations. The student-made posters on the walls of the ESOL (English as a Second Language) classrooms at the Sarasota County Technical Institute show that diversity in vivid color. Taped on the walls are colorful messages hand-written in dozens of languages and foreign scripts from Europe, Latin America, Thailand, Greece, China, Iran, India and Russia.

At one of ESOL teacher's Adriana Roblado's classes last fall, 22 students sat at desks. Twelve of them were Latino, coming from Mexico, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Peru and Brazil. The remainder were from Hungary, France, Yugoslavia and Burma. And like all immigrants, they had stories to tell about how they came to America. Many have made sacrifices that most of us will find hard to imagine.

A 21-year-old man from the Dominican Republic finished three years of law school in his country before he came here for a better life. Now, in order to practice law in this country, he must repeat law school all over again.

Two Burmese men-boys, really-were imprisoned as college students for fighting the present government in their country (now called Myanmar). They escaped and fled through the jungle. In this country, they work in restaurant kitchens.

A Colombian pharmacist now works in a local factory.

Another Colombian who worked as a government computer analyst makes windows in Sarasota.

A Peruvian economist works as a housekeeper. Her husband, a civil engineer, has not found work.

A man from Yugoslavia fled the war and is a refugee in this country. His wife and daughter remained behind.

"We are looking for a new life," explains a woman named Martha, who managed a large company in Peru and now cleans houses.

"They come to work and survive," says Roblado.

To read more about Sarasota's growing immigrant community, read Susan Burns' article on page 68 of the January 2003 edition of SARASOTA Magazine, available at newsstands now. 

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