America at graduationZoila America Guardado came to the U.S. from her native El Salvador in early 2004. She moved here on her own and spoke very little English when she first arrived. She said, “You feel scared in a new culture especially when you don’t understand the language.” Soon after settling in, America got involved in an abusive relationship and suffered from domestic violence for years.  To compound the problem she struggled to speak and understand coworkers at her shopping mall cleaning job.

In 2008 America enrolled in a beginning level English class (ESL level 2) at the Carlos Rosario School. Day by day her English started to improve. She gained more confidence in herself and her abilities. In November 2010 America left her abuser and moved into a shelter for survivors of domestic violence. At this time this dedicated student was taking ESL and GED preparation classes. Although it was often difficult to come to class from the shelter, she never gave up on her education.

After three years of classes and a couple attempts at passing the official GED exam, on June 14th 2012 America walked across the Carlos Rosario stage. She had a class ring engraved with the School’s name, and she asked School Founder Sonia Gutierrez to put it on her finger as she accepted her diploma.

These days America is full of confidence and is able to speak and understand English better inside the workplace and beyond. She is looking ahead to a bright future. Drawing from her experiences, America has become a health promoter at the Clinica del Pueblo supporting other survivors of domestic violence.