Student Success Stories

Community colleges attract immigrant students for a variety of reasons, including affordability and accessibility, contextualized ESL programs, whether it’s for the workplace or academic instruction; an effective way to transition to a four-year college or directly to a career; and a welcoming environment that offers flexibility in class programming, location, and schedules.

And immigrant students are a resource to community colleges. The diversity in countries, cultures, and experiences represented in the immigrant student population strengthens community colleges campuses and classrooms. Immigrant education programs have become a key component in advancing community college’s strategic goals and a critical link connecting colleges with their communities. Through peer-to-peer mentoring programs, immigrant students help one another and create a more supportive learning environment enabling students to succeed academically. And by starting up and participating in clubs and organizing events and workshops, immigrant students are developing important leadership and advocacy skills.

The success of our work is measured by the success of our immigrant students who have benefited from their community college experiences. Their stories are below:

Vitor Granja

Westchester Community College
Country of origin: Brazil

When Vitor Granja first moved to this country in 2008 from Brazil, he had no knowledge of English. He attended ESL classes while working as a landscaper during the week and babysitter on the weekends. Today, Vitor is a graduate of Westchester Community College and winner of several awards, including the State University of New York Chancellors Award and the 2013 All-USA Community College Academic Team. He will continue his education this fall at New York University Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Culture.

Fidel Gonzalez Safora

Westchester Community College
Country of origin: Cuba

“I’m very grateful for the ESL program at Westchester Community College,” says Fidel Gonzalez Safora, who came to the United States from Cuba in the spring of 2013. Despite having recently earned a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering from his home country, the only job Fidel could find here was in the meatpacking department of a local supermarket. His lack of English language skills and lack of U.S. job experience were significant barriers holding him back.

Giana Saloman

LaGuardia Community College
Country of origin: Haiti

Giana Saloman was born in Haiti. When she was 19, her older sister, a nurse, convinced her to go to school to pursue nursing. She worked as a Registered Nurse in Haiti for 7 years until 2010, when the earthquake caused her family to move to the United States to find safety, stability and opportunity for her then 3-year-old daughter. After years of unemployment and underemployment in the United States, Giana joined the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) for Foreign Trained Nurses program at the LaGuardia Community College Welcome Back Center and funded by the NYC Department of Small Business Services.

Aida Rodriguez

Palm Beach State College
Country of origin: Mexico

A native of Mexico, Aida Rodriguez received her Associate in Arts degree from Palm Beach State College in Lake Worth, FL, with honors in May 2013 and is also the 2013 recipient of the Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship, which will allow her to complete her bachelor’s degree at a university. She is enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania. The scholarship will pay up to $30,000 per year for two to three years to cover tuition, living expenses, books, and required fees. She is among 73 students nationwide to receive the scholarship.