Clara's Story

Clara Perez is working hard to learn English, but even as she struggles to tell her story through an interpreter she could not be more emphatic about one thing—what matters most to her is the well-being of her three children.

Clara, 41, came to this country from the Dominican Republic in 2010 with her kids: Yair, 6, Jonathan, 18, and Joanna, 21. You could say that the American dream has been elusive so far for the Perez family. For a time they lived with Clara’s mother, who had come to the United States earlier. A house fire changed that arrangement. There’s been time in a shelter. More recently, a man who heard of their plight provided them with two rooms in his house in Providence.

Through all the difficulties, Clara has worked full-time evenings for a company that cleans school buildings. And, during the day she’s at Dorcas Place learning English as part of the agency’s Full Service Community Schools (FSCS) program in partnership with Yair’s school, the Charles Fortes Elementary School.

Dorcas Place and its partner schools in the FSCS program provide opportunities to Providence school children and their families to work together in a two-generational plan to enhance literacy, maximize learning and support academic growth within families.

Despite not finishing high school, Clara held a good job in the Dominican Republic—she was an administrative assistant archiving documents for a company that promotes sports and cultural events in her native country. Sometimes, she concedes, she wishes she had stayed there. “There’ve been so many problems, so much has happened,” Clara said.

But she remains determined to master English, even if it takes her several more years. “When I learn English I know I’ll be able to get a better job and be able to better help my children,” she said. She would very much like to work days—ideally for a company similar to the one where she worked in the Dominican Republic—so she could be home in the evenings to help with homework.

Despite life’s difficulties, Clara has steadfastly maintained her commitment to her studies at Dorcas Place. Asked if she is happy with her progress learning English, Clara broke into a broad smile. “Oh yes!” she declared—in perfect English.