Immigrating to a new country isn’t easy, though the Rodriguez Ornelas family found that the Academy of World Languages (AWL), lead agency Community Learning Center Institute (CLCI) and partner Heartfelt Tidbits provide the necessary resources for a fresh start.
When the family moved from Mexico to the United States, mother Fabiola said her three children feared they wouldn’t be accepted in their new school or the broader community because of their race. “Here at AWL, they teach them to share regardless of race, color or language,” said Rodriguez Ornelas. “Everyone is equal.”
She said that the teachers at AWL have been good to her children and were especially supportive when her daughter had surgery for appendicitis. “It was a really beautiful experience, as if I had family here taking care of my daughter,” said Rodriguez Ornelas.
One of her biggest challenges, however, was learning English without having a social network.
“For a long time, I tried to study on my own, but it didn't work for me, I couldn't.”
To help her son with his homework, Rodriguez Ornelas spent hours translating with a dictionary. “I kept telling myself, 'I have to do it, I have to do it.' I wanted to be able to speak [English] and practice with someone because I couldn't do it alone at home.”
That changed when Rodriguez Ornelas was introduced to Heartfelt Tidbits, an organization that supports refugee and immigrant families integrating within Southwestern Ohio communities through educational, cultural and employment-enhancing programming.
“Heartfelt Tidbits helped me overcome my anxiety,” said Rodriguez Ornelas. “I learned to speak English and how to use a sewing machine. Now that's what I do in my free time. When I feel down, I grab my machine and go to work.”
Rodriguez Ornelas is paying it forward. When she isn’t running her own business, she is teaching sewing at AWL.
“Without AWL and Heartfelt Tidbits, we wouldn't have advanced in our lives. I feel better because I can speak English and I’m into sewing. I can do work for people and have a few friends. And I can help my kids.”