Wearing the traditional bold green cap and gown, and armed with an infectious smile, Darleny Castillo spoke from the heart about the educational value that Dorcas Place Adult and Family Learning Center offers its students.
Darleny, 21, was born and had lived in the Dominican Republic when, early in 2010, her family abruptly moved to the United States. “I am the oldest of three girls,” Darleny said. “This means a lot of responsibility. While in the Dominican Republic I had to take care of my sisters when my mom wasn’t there. And, I have been working since I was 15 years old because I wanted to help my mom.”
She was also a good student while in her homeland. “I used to get medals and awards because I was one of the best students in my school,” she said, adding that she had graduated from high school and was enrolled at a university while also working in a drugstore. She would often work until midnight. To save money, Darleny would walk long distances rather that taking a bus.
Life was difficult, but Darleny refused to quit. And, she remained optimistic about her future. Her mom promised her that one day they would move to the United States.
However, three months after arriving here, Darleny was not going to school. Nor was she working. “I didn’t know one word of English,” she recalled. Darleny was depressed and worried about her future. “I began to think that this would be my life forever,” she recalled. Just as circumstances began to seem overwhelming, Darleny’s mom approached her.
“I have a school for you,” her mom said. “It’s called Dorcas Place and we only need to sign up for classes.” Darleny, her mom, and one of her sisters applied, and they were accepted by Dorcas Place.
Darleny found some of the Dorcas Place instruction difficult. In English classes, she often lapsed back into her native Spanish. But she persevered.
“I came to Dorcas Place with nothing,” she said.
That has now changed dramatically. She received her GED certificate at the June, 2011, Graduation and Recognition ceremony. “Now I have a lot – an education which a year and a half ago seemed impossible to attain. Dorcas Place gives you the tools and teaches you how to use them. It’s a nice environment to learn. And, you learn that the only person who can stop you is you.”
For Darleny, now enrolled as a student at the Community College of Rhode Island (CCRI), her dreams are alive. And she cannot be stopped.
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