Good Evening ladies and gentlemen. / My name is Manuel Rodriguez and I’m from the Dominican Republic. I am very honored to speak tonight. / As I reflect back to when I was a child, I realized how far I have come. I used to play hospital with my sister and I would pretend to be the doctor and she – the patient. /

After I finished high school, I realized that I needed to leave my country and my family for better opportunities. / It was hard because I was very young and did not know what I was doing. / First, I went to the Virgin Islands, and then to Puerto Rico, and then to Oklahoma, and then to New York… but finally, I landed in Washington, D.C. And I fell in love with the city.

When I arrived my cousin told me about this amazing school called Carlos Rosario. / She said I could take English classes. I was so excited and I felt like I was about to achieve my dream. / I put my name in the lottery / but to my disappointment, I did NOT win! I was SO upset! / I called every day for weeks and went to the school every day in hopes of becoming a Carlos Rosario student. Finally, a space opened up in September 2015. I was so happy and began ESL Health classes. And one year later I started in the Nurse Aide Training Program.

This past year has been a wonderful learning year for me. I was surrounded by different cultures because of the diversity in our class. I have also been able to improve my English while studying about health. Also, I was learning in real time through the clinical practicum at Sibley Memorial Hospital. I felt so lucky to have these opportunities that I NEVER missed a day of class this ENTIRE year.

Tonight, along with my classmates, I am graduating from the Nurse / Aide / Training/ Program! // Look at what we’ve achieved together!

With this certification, I am moving onto college to become a Registered Nurse… and one day to achieve my dream of becoming a doctor.

And on the way to achieving this dream, I know the school will continue to support me. I am honored to be a 2017 college scholarship recipient. At the same time, with support from my teachers and the Carlos Rosario employment specialist, I recently applied to be a Patient Care Technician at the Washington Hospital Center. Also, I’m a proud member of the new mentorship program and it’s really helpful because my mentor is actually a doctor. These experiences I have gained at the school have prepared me to provide quality care and give back to my community of Latinos, but also to ALL immigrants and really anyone who needs me. /

Before I leave the stage, I want to give thanks to the people who have gotten me here. Thank you to my teachers and my classmates for always supporting me and encouraging me. You will never be far from my heart. This School is more than a school, it’s a family. // Thank you to my mother and sister who flew in from the Dominican Republic to be here with me tonight. Mom, this dream isn’t just for me, it’s for you, too. Tonight is just the beginning. [in Spanish]

Lastly, I want to bring onto the stage someone who I first had the pleasure of meeting this past year when I voted in the U.S. for the first time. She is really passionate about the School and helping immigrants reach their goals. And speaking of goals, she is also one of the people who is helping me go to college through the Kokkoros and Rohrer Family Scholarship I am receiving this year by way of the Carlos Rosario School. /

It has been a wonderful opportunity to share my story with you tonight / and such an honor to introduce our CEO / Ms. Allison Kokkoros / Thank you.