Paula Alanis

My name is Paula Alanis and although I was born in the USA I grew up in Mexico. I returned to the United States when I was 18 with my wonderful husband. We didn't know the culture or the language we decided to come here for better opportunities. Everything was going fine until 3 years ago, when I was laid off from the company I had worked at for the last 6 years. The company closed and I was without a job. I was scared and sad to be in that situation. I think that day was the worst of my life. I felt that my world had ended. My having a job is so important because I help my disabled father financially. I didn't know the English language at all. I never made an effort to learn because at the company I worked for almost everyone spoke Spanish. It was then that I found out the importance of knowing English in order to find a job. That was the day I decided to learn the English language and if possible earn a college degree. My story in school started the month after I was laid off.

In October 2011 I registered for the GED and the ESL programs at South Piedmont Community College. Studying day and night it took me just a few months to earn my GED and I graduated from the program in May 2012. I spent all of 2012 trying to learn English which was very hard for me. There were times I cried from the frustration of not being able to understand, I felt I was not learning and that I was wasting time. My husband kept pushing me to go forward and to not give up, so I kept trying. By December of that year I went to take the placement test so I could start taking college classes to get my degree in Medical Office Administration.

Even though I struggled with comprehension and grammar unbelievably I passed the CPT, it was then that I realized that college required more than one year of learning the English language. In January 2013 I started in the developmental classes along with the classes for my career path. Once again I felt so bad and frustrated with facing the barrier of not knowing the language of this country. I almost gave up but even though it was hard, I was already there! I started looking for help even though I was embarrassed because I didn't speak or understand the language. That was when I went to the Academic Support Center at SPCC. I found the tutors to be very nice people who were willing to help me understand my assignments and my books.

There I found relief from the stress that I had in trying to "be someone" and "grow up professionally". My teachers were willing to help me as well, which I am very grateful. The college level English was so hard for me and I struggled with it, but my desire to grow and get my degree was larger than my struggles. My goal was and is always to give my classes my 100% and get good grades. My GPA is 3.847 and I have not failed a class! By taking 12 to 15 credits each semester, including summer I am now in my last semester and eager to graduate this May. In addition to earning my Associates degree in Medical Office Administration I will also receive my diploma in Medical Insurance Coding.

The path, which was long and sometimes frustrating, to earn my GED, learn the English language, obtain a diploma in Medical Insurance Coding and my Associates degree in Medical Office Administration has taken me three and half years. I am so excited and proud of what I have done in this amount of time. When I was afraid to start, I thought "how do I know how far I can go, if I do not try?"