Quitting is not an Option
My Journey from ESL to English 101

      It has been an exciting journey coming to America, but the most exciting part of it has been to
learn English. In 1980, I came with my two daughters from EL Salvador to the U.S. I took some ESL
classes at Los Angeles City College (LACC). I just needed to learn enough English to be able to
communicate with people to find a job to support my daughters. I went from job to job until I took all
the real estate classes I needed to get my Real Estate license. So in 1987 I became a Realtor. My
profession gave me the opportunity to put my daughters in private Christian schools and a university.
Now that they have graduated from their schools, married and gone from my house; and now that I
have became a widow, I decided to go back to school to continue learning more English. I want to
pursue my dream of one day becoming a writer. I sold everything I had and moved back with my
mother and sister. I applied for student loans (to support myself) and received some grants to go to back
to school. Next month I will be 59 years old, with a very heavy accent, and I am back in school. You
are probably asking yourself what school can offer me at my age, and why I should need to learn more
English now? The answer is very simple. Now it's my time. Now is the time that I can pursue my
educational dream. Real estate gave me the opportunity to pay for my children' s education and live a
comfortable life. I am a person who needs a goal and a purpose in life, and my previous goals are
already met. My children are self-sufficient now. I can't just make money without any specific goal in
life. My children are happily married with great men of God, my grandchildren are being taught the
word of God, and I am single again. So why shouldn't I learn more English and make my dreams to
become a writer a reality.

     In the 2011 Fall semester I enrolled at AVC. I took the assessment test.,and it said; I was ready
for English 95 and Reading 99. So I took both of them plus some Business classes. I knew right away
something wasn't correct, something was missing. I realized the assessment test didn't show what I
really needed. I needed more ESL classes. Therefore, I enrolled in those classes. The counselor that I
had at that time told me that I was wasting my time taking more ESL classes. If the test showed I was
ready for 95and 99, I should take those classes and then move on. She didn't understand an ESL
student. I listened to my heart and started my ESL classes, not from the beginning but continuing from
where I left off in the 1980s. I have learned one thing in life: I must start from the beginning if I want to
succeed. I owe it to myself. For this reason, I took only a few ESL classes, but those classes were what
I needed and allowed me to take English 101. This past semester I finished English 101 with an “A” It
was so hard for me to earn an A. Every day I had to study more than the regular English-speaking
students. I had to write and rewrite all my essays. I visited my professor many times, with so many
drafts, until my essay was good enough to receive an A. But it was worth it. To my benefit, I had one of
the best English professors who had so much patience and helped me all the way. The key to your
success is to ask, ask and ask again. The AVC professors, especially the ESL, are always ready and
happy to help you. You just need to ask for help and then do the work. I know it's embarrassing and
frustrating when you can't communicate what is in your heart to other people. But the ESL professors at
AVC understand you, and they have so much patience with their students. They are there to help their
students to succeed, because their students' success is their success. Just ask and you shall receive.

     We also need to have goals in life in order to succeed, and school is no different. Don't just take
classes to get financial aid. Have a real goal in mind and follow it. For any ESL student the first
educational goals should be to learn English well, and then to take your major's classes. Many times, I
see students that are unable to pass their classes due to their ESL problems. These problems stay with
them to the rest of their classes. They might pass all their classes, but it's very difficult to pass with As
if their essays are not written well. Many students have many fears they are afraid of writing, speaking,
or their age. Consequently, they get discouraged and often quit school. If they would have only finished
all of the ESL classes, they would be in better shape for rest of the classes. If I have learned one thing
in life,it is this: If you don't start from the beginning and continuing taking the ESL classes your school
have for you to learn English, you will never achieve your goal or reach your destination. As an ESL
student, if you want to pass English 101 and be able to continue toward your educational goals, you
must follow the classes in the proper order and level to learn English. Don't worry about how many
units you will have at the end of the ESL courses. Just take all the classes you need, and your success
will follow. If you reach the maximum amount of units, you just have to write a letter of appeal every
semester, telling the school you have so many units due to the fact you are an ESL student. Financial
aid only needs your letter for you to continue your school. Take the classes you need to learn the
language, but don't waste your time and the taxpayers money in other classes that are not necessary to
your educational goals. We should be grateful for the opportunity we have been given, so we can
become productive members of our society.


     Another thing that will stop your success is not to speak English at all times. Yes, you must
speak English if you want to learn it and be able to communicate well. I still can't speak English as well
as I wish to. But as I practice speaking English, my communication skills improve. Another thing that
is very important to remember, for us as ESL students, is not to translate every word or sentence that
we speak or write. We must learn to think in English if we want to speak it. We may never be able to
get rid of our accent or be mistake-free. Our accent is part of who we are, but we can learn the language
and become able to communicate with others. I see too many students that are afraid to speak English,
because of their accents, or because some one might make fun of the way they speak. Remember:
everybody who came to America older than 17 years of age has an accent. So get over it, and continue
your educational journey. The fear of success is sometimes worse than the fear of failure. No one ever
succeeds without failing one or twenty times. Perhaps the twenty first time would have been the one
you needed to succeed. The harder you work toward your goals the sooner you will accomplish them.
I passed English 101. What is next? I am now starting my major' s classes. This coming Spring
of 2014, I am starting a new chapter of my educational journey. I am taking English 103, Comm 103,
Journalism 121, and many more exciting classes. Getting closer to my goal of becoming a writer is so
exciting! I am looking forward to the day I can write my first book or become a free lance writer.
Perhaps I could write your story, from an emigrant to a US citizen, from an ESL student to a
professional English speaker. With my Communication studies from AVC, I could do so many exiting
things while I'm transferring to a university to obtain my BA in Communications with a minor in

     To summarize, being in school as an ESL student is not easy, but it's rewarding. As you see
yourself advancing in your classes, understanding your lessons, being able to communicate better today
than yesterday, you feel a sense of pride in what you have accomplished. While you are so grateful and
thankful to have been given the opportunity to go back to school, learn more things, and accomplish
your goals, you are also anxious to start your new career. Meanwhile, don't you ever give up and don't
you think that you are not capable of accomplishing what you want in life. If you keep going and doing
what is necessary, eventually it will pay off. Be a good example for your children. Who knows, you
might be for your family what they need to keep going and to reach their goals as well. Don't forget
that your success should be shared with other students who are struggling to learn English. Don't you
ever make fun of the way they talk, forgetting where you came from. They need your example to
continue toward their success. So take time from your busy life to teach someone, just for their benefit.
Only two things would stop me from reaching my educational goal: if I die, or if I can't continue
borrowing student loans to live on. If that happens, have I failed? Absolutely not. I will take my
knowledge and put it into practice. One day, I will be a writer. There will always be a win-win
situation for me in this journey. Finally, I would like to thank all my ESL teachers as well as my
regular teachers, who will continue helping me to finish my educational goal.

My success is their success.

With a thankful heart,
Aida Walls