2017 Graduation speech by Kelly

It is a great day for me and I feel so happy to be speaking to you today! Thank you so much for this privilege.

I am from El Salvador, which is the smallest country in Central America. My first language is Spanish and I never thought  I would learn English. NEVER NEVER!  Education is not free in my country and my parents worked very hard to pay for my college. After six years in college, I graduated and became a Lawyer. YES, a LAWYER! Then I got married and moved to the state of North Carolina. Can you think how I was feeling when I moved to this country without understanding the English language? I felt unsuccessful.

When my daughter Nicole was born in North Carolina, she was smaller than my hand. At 11 months old, she was transferred to Boston Children’s Hospital for open heart surgery, and at 20 months, she had a double lung transplant. The Boston hospital told me they needed to check her twice a month, so my daughter and I moved to Portland Maine to be closer to Boston. Even today, Nicole at six years old goes to the Boston Hospital at least twice a month.

Even though my parents taught me that education is the key to open the doors of success, every time I found a brochure from Portland Adult Education, I never opened it. I felt afraid to look dumb in front others for having a legal degree and not being able to understand the language in classes.

But one day, I decided to confront my fear and I called  Portland Adult Education.  It was one of the best decisions I made. When I finished the first semester, I couldn’t believe how comfortable I felt in the class and how much I learned. Not only was I learning English, but also my great Level 4 teacher, Nancy Fox, taught me that we can learn as adults, in a slow way, and that education is for all! JUST TRY IT!

Even though I came to this country with a lot of dreams and I was already motivated to take more classes at Portland Adult Education, I didn’t want to be enrolled for a high school diploma. I thought it would take too much time to get it and I already had my Bachelor’s degree. However, I was aware that to go to college, I needed to have more exposure to the English language, build my vocabulary and polish my reading and writing skills.

During one of my Level 5 classes, my wonderful teacher, Sara Staples said two MAGIC WORDS “SMALL GOALS”. As we know, ROME WASN’T BUILT IN ONE DAY; it took time to finish it!  To continue working on the language, I needed to set small goals, so I registered for Math classes.

My great Math teacher Jill uses the words A WHOLE CAKE to help students easily understand fractions. It sounds like funny words. Don’t think that we eat cake in classes  NO NO NO! WE ARE NOT ALLOWED TO DO IT! Thinking about my small goals and the pieces of a whole cake helped me to understand that a high school diploma will emphasize my skills in Math and English, skills that I can’t prove with my foreign degree. Thus, my small goals became the pieces of a whole cake! Today I am receiving the last piece of my cake!

Remember! It is never too late to get a high school diploma. It is just the right time and Portland Adult Education is giving you this opportunity! Take it and have your own cake! Even though English is your first language or it is going to be your second or third one, holding a high school diploma will give you more knowledge and this knowledge WILL NEVER HURT YOU! Don’t give up and keep going because the time to get a high school diploma is shorter than the struggling time of living without one!

I just want to say Thank you God for illuminating me to understand how life works to become a rainbow! Thank you so much to my parents in El Salvador, Mario and Milagro Flamenco, for showing me the way to succeed!

A special thank you to my daughter Nicole, who is my inspiration to be strong, and who understood that Mom had homework to do and we couldn’t play. Thank you to Mr. Raymond Ouellette for transporting my daughter and me to Boston Children’s Hospital for many years, even when it was an emergency. You are my family here!

A special THANK YOU to Heather, my Language Arts teacher, who helped me overcome my struggle with writing. You are an amazing teacher! A double, triple thank you to the administrative staff, teachers and volunteers at Portland Adult Education for  making this happen and for being my hope to have a life again!

Now… breathing in and breathing out, I want to say thank you so much to my teacher Arline because she always said if you have homework to do, breath in and breath out and say I CAN DO IT! AND I COULD.

Thank you very much!

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