Learning English Brings Her Goals into Focus

Edis Canales will be the first to tell you she is shy. 

While that might be true, she won’t hesitate to tell you what she aspires to. 

"My dream is to be a nurse,” she said. “I like to help people and make people feel better.” 

Edis, who is 24, currently works at an assisted living facility, and her goal is to become a nurse at that facility. But before she can enter a training program, she must first earn her high school equivalency diploma. 

A New Country, a New Language 

Edis’ parents brought her family to the U.S. from El Salvador in 2008. 

“I’m here because here you have more opportunity to have a better job, to help your family,” she said. “I want to help my parents because they did everything for me and my brothers.” 

When she arrived as a preteen, she struggled without any English language skills. 

“It was difficult for me,” she said. “Like, in school, everyone was talking English. I was alone, by myself. It was hard for me at the beginning.” 

Her cousins who were also in the U.S. spoke English and they became her first teachers here, helping Edis navigate her new country. 

“Everywhere that I [went], my cousins [went] with me,” she said. 

Writing Her Future 

Edis didn’t finish high school. She was missing one writing exam, and she had aged out of the system, making her ineligible to take the test at the high school. 

“The teachers from high school told me, ‘Oh, you can go to the library.’ I asked what they do there, and they said they do GED,” Edis said. 

She enrolled in classes at Glen Cove Library in Glen Cove, New York, with the purpose of studying for and passing the high school equivalency exam. But the instructors there told her about the Write Her Future Institute to help her improve her English. 

“She told me it was a good [program] and I could learn more English,” she said. “And she was right!” 

Since joining, Edis said she understands more, reads more words and faster, and the job she loves so much at the assisted living facility has become more fulfilling. 

“I speak more with the residents and my coworkers. I feel much better. I feel more free to speak,” she said. “I’m not shy to speak English. At the beginning, I was very shy to speak in English. [Now] I talk with everybody. I walk around to talk with them and feel [happy.]” 

And, for her parents, who Edis said did everything for her, she can now return the favor. 

“I’m the only one who takes my parents to the doctor. I take my mom to the doctor, and I speak the problem that she has to the doctor. I make the appointment for them. When I go to the pharmacy, I ask for the medication for them, stuff like that,” she said. 

Edis can’t help but reflect on where she started. 

"I [felt], like, so bad with myself. Like, why can’t I speak English?” she said. “In the beginning, it was hard for me. But now I feel ... I trust myself when I speak English.” 

Her ever-improving English is helping her get closer to passing the high school equivalency writing exam so she can go on to pursue her dream of becoming a nurse. 

“I took the [writing] test on September 23rd. I failed with 495. Only 5 points more to pass!” 

She’s not giving up. 

“[Write Her Future] is the best thing that [has] happen[ed] to me,” Edis said. 

ProLiteracy and Lancôme worked together to develop the Write Her Future Institute. Learn more about the initiative: 



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