The Martha’s Vineyard Adult Learning Program (MVALP) celebrated the completion of its 14th year of teaching English to adult immigrants with a ceremony at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School’s Performing Arts Center on Thursday, April 4.
The 85 graduates included a diverse collection of students bound by a common educational goal. Their home countries include Thailand, Korea, Russia, Moldova, Bulgaria, Columbia, Honduras, Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, The Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Spain, and Romania.
Family and community members filled the audience. The joy-filled evening included song, poetry, speeches and delicious food, all student-produced.
School superintendent James Weiss congratulated the students on their hard work. “I have been struck by the dedication you show for learning English,” he said. “Many of you come to these classes after working all day and being here is so important that your attendance is high and for many of you perfect. This program is obviously important to you and your families. Congratulations on your success and best wishes for continuing your dedicated work.”
The program is supported by a grant from the Massachusetts Department of Education and by contributions from Island businesses that include the Ocean View, Offshore Ale, The Wharf, Dock Street Coffee Shop, Mansion House Hotel, Café Moxie, Tropical Restaurant, Tropical Bakery, the YMCA, MVPS, and the MV Family Center.
Wesley de Souza, from Brazil, gave a moving speech about an immigrant’s dreams that touched all those in attendance and highlighted the difference the program makes in the lives of those who complete it.
“Good evening everyone, students, teachers, friends and guests. This evening I would like to talk about dreams, Dreams!
“We all always have dreams. Dreams motivate us to fight. If you have big dreams, that will require of you great challenges.
“We dreamed of one day coming to the United States to fight for our dreams.
“We had many challenges, like homesickness, distance, fear. But one of our major challenges is to learn a new language. It is not easy.
“We are here on this night because we are struggling with this challenge. We are fighting for our dreams.
“We are fighting for a better life within society, fighting for better opportunity, better communication, and much more.
“I would like to talk about my experience. I have been here in the United States for a few years. I had heard about this program, but I didn’t give it much importance.
“When my wife came from Brazil, she told me, I want and I need to enter the English program. Then I went to the program to encourage her.
“That is when I saw how much I was wrong — and that I had so much to learn.
“I remember one day in the class Jeanne talked about goals. I did not know what goals meant.
“Next day at my work, we had a meeting and talked about goals. My boss said, ‘Wesley, we have goals for this company. We have goals for you.’
“Then I saw how important being in this program is, and how we can learn more and more. So, I want to encourage you to keep coming, don’t give up.
“Many times the day labor makes you so exhausted, the weather can leave you discouraged, but remember you are fighting for your dreams and so you can do this!
“Thank you very much to all the teachers; in particular my teacher Rae, the director Jeanne, and the student advisor Vera, for all their patience, affection, dedication and love. They have helped everyone here today to build our dreams.”
Jeanne Burke is the director of MVALP. For more information about classes, visit the Adult Learning Program webpage at www.mvalp.com or visit mvalp on Facebook.