This Week's Story

Elena pursues her GRAND AMERICAN DREAM and becomes a teacher!

This Week’s Story relives American history and the Bible through brief inspiring stories presented on mp3 audio recordings and text for reading.

A Box Full of Dreams and Hope

What is The Grand American Dream? Is it an opportunity for prosperity, success, or freedom? For me it is to pursue a profession which I love.

I was born in Sonora, Mexico. At the age of nine, my family packed their essentials into a small box and moved to the United States. The box was small, but it was full of dreams and hope. It wasn’t easy to start a new life and leave behind friends, traditions, and our home.

In Blythe, California a one-bedroom apartment awaited us. Yes, a one-bedroom apartment for a family of ten! I was enrolled in the fifth grade. I did not speak English, nor was I familiar with the culture. It was very different from what I knew. Adjusting was complex. The bullying of my peers was devastating. I remember, as if it were yesterday, when a classmate told me, “Maria, the teacher wants you to read your Spanish book to the class.”

I often read books in Spanish, while the class was working. Not knowing any better, one day I stood up and began reading my book in

Spanish to the entire class. I heard my classmates laughing and the teacher asked me, “Maria, read to yourself.” I was humiliated and spent my recess outside by the school fence crying and staring at cars that drove by. Were my parents in any of them?

I hated my new life, but every humiliation that I suffered at school made me stronger and more determined. In two years I learned basic English and was put into regular Language Arts classes. I knew I wanted to become an ESL instructor.

After high school, I enrolled at Palo Verde College. After the first year, I fell in love and dropped out of college to get married. At the age of twenty, I had my first son.  He motivated me to continue with my education, to work full-time, and take care of my family. It was tough, but not impossible. I graduated with two Associate degrees and became a receptionist at Palo Verde College.

After eight years of working at Palo Verde College in different positions and obtaining a Bachelor’s degree, I was given the opportunity of my life. I was offered a job as an ESL instructor. I completed a Master’s degree in TESOL a year after I started teaching.

Today stepping into a classroom knowing that I can change lives and that I can help others live their “American Dream” is a feeling that I would not exchange for anything.

Having my mother as a student is one of my major accomplishments. She was not given the opportunity to go to school. As a six-year-old she was given adult responsibilities. She cooked and made corn tortillas for the family.  When she was not in the kitchen, she was leased to wealthy families to do house chores or work in the fields. She had no time for books. Her tenacity and desire to give her children a life better than what she had experienced, makes me proud to be her daughter and her teacher.

At age seventy-one my mother is learning to write and read Spanish, and learning English. She told me, “I will not die without going to school.” She is living her “American Dream” as the mother of her teacher, and I am living mine as the teacher of my mother.

This is Maria Elena Gamez with my autobiography.

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