Volunteer Spotlight: Cecilia Gomez


LIFT volunteers are the best! LIFT volunteers come from various backgrounds including highly skilled professionals, community workers, retired teachers, and homemakers.  Volunteer teacher Cecilia Gomez from the Adult Basic Education (ABE) program recently spoke with LIFT about her experiences with the SEE program. Cecilia has a long history of volunteering.  Some of the highlights of her volunteer history include:  serving with Women’s Jail Ministry for 10 years; taking part in promoting cultural awareness as an Adelante Ambassador; and being the Public Relations Chair for Literacy Volunteers of America from 1997 to 1998

What brought you to LIFT?

I became aware of the enormous problem of adult illiteracy while serving as a board member with Literacy Volunteers of America.  The work was very rewarding, but I soon came to the conclusion that I would rather be teaching.  Unfortunately, because of work scheduling conflicts I could not volunteer with LIFT until I retired in 2015.  

What is your favorite thing about volunteering at LIFT?

That would definitely be the students. Most of the students come from backgrounds where they were not given much encouragement as children. They were made to feel inferior even though many had learning disabilities such as dyslexia.  Many adults who can’t read believe that they don’t have the capacity to learn, but that is not necessarily the case.  If someone is low-literate, it’s often because they haven’t been given the proper teaching method to learn, not because they don’t have the ability to learn.

As the students progress through the LIFT program it is very satisfying to see them gain confidence and self-esteem. So many students have the capacity to be in higher positions in their jobs, but because of their reading deficiency, they are held back from reaching their full potential.  When a student successfully completes the LIFT program, they acquire the learning skills necessary to open many previously closed doors.  I love to hear about students who have graduated and have gone on to bigger and better things.  When the students succeed, I succeed.

SEE 4 students with Cecilia at their class graduation

Any advice for students?      

Don’t give up.  The truth is that it is not easy, but it is doable.  I write the word “perseverance” for the students to see every day to remind them to not give up. Get up and go! Learning is not something that is unattainable when you put in the work.

What would you say to someone considering becoming a volunteer at LIFT?     

If you have a genuine desire to make a difference in someone’s life I would highly recommend volunteering at LIFT.  Words cannot describe the feeling you get when a student makes a breakthrough and “gets it.”  Volunteering at LIFT will not only change a student’s future, it will also deeply enrich your life.  

Student Spotlight: Alberto and Lizeth

Alberto and Lizeth, a couple in LIFT’s English As a Second Language (ESL) Level One class, are working towards the same goal: to improve their English skills to overcome barriers they face in their daily lives. They often rely on their 9-year-old son to help them with basic tasks, such as ordering at restaurants or translating documents from his school. They know they will not always be able to rely on him, so they enrolled in the ESL class at Texas Capital Bank’s west Dallas branch to increase their English proficiency. Even though they are in the same level class, they do not have the same kind of experience with learning English.

Alberto has taken English classes before, but he says that his experience with English classes at LIFT has been better than at previous classes elsewhere. He feels that the teachers are accommodating and that the schedule of the classes is very flexible. Even though he knows many people find learning a new language challenging, he says, “With the right teacher, you can overcome that obstacle.” The immediate benefits of his improved English skills are proven at his job.

Alberto works at a restaurant at Trinity Groves, close to his English classes. He would speak very little with customers because he did not feel confident enough to interact more with them. However, this has quickly changed, and he feels more comfortable speaking with customers and even has conversations with them. “I see the benefits of improving my English in my tips. A customer even left me a note saying, “Good job” on my English skills,” Alberto says.

Lizeth also works in the service industry as a hairstylist. They both express the importance of communicating with customers for good service. While Alberto had prior English knowledge, Lizeth started off with only the bare minimum. She describes her fear of doing things in public by herself, such as asking for help at stores, or even ordering something in English. She feels she is gaining confidence as well as the courage to do these things without Alberto’s or her son’s help. She has also benefited from English at her job. Lizeth says, “I am taking more clients because of my improved English. I no longer limit myself to Spanish-speaking clients.”

The couple practices their English together outside of class to gain more confidence in speaking with others and to improve their skills. They have learned a great amount in their brief time at LIFT and hope to continue to the next level to learn and improve their English.

Inspiring Story: LIFT helps mother overcome obstacle of communicating with son’s caregivers

Imagine having a son with Down Syndrome and not being able to communicate with his therapist. This is the challenge Juana faced after her move to the United States. On top of that, she had to give up her career as a math teacher because of the language barrier she faced. These obstacles led her to pursue English classes so she could communicate her concerns and questions to the people who support her son.

Juana attended other ESL classes before coming to LIFT. She says, “In other classes I’ve attended, the teachers did not form a personal relationship with you. Here, you get treated differently, and the teachers actually try to get to know you.” At LIFT, she also gained the confidence to do something she always feared: speaking English out loud. “I used to be intimidated to speak out loud because of my accent. Now, I have more confidence to practice with others, such as my teacher and my husband. Even my son’s therapist says that I am improving quickly.”

As a student in the level one program, Juana started off knowing only the very basics of the English language. Now she can have full conversations confidently and proudly. Juana says she is very grateful to have found a program like LIFT and even recommends it to all her friends who struggle with the same issues.

Juana’s background in teaching has made her an engaged and active learner. She says her goal is to one day be able to speak English well enough to become a teacher in the U.S. On days when she feels less motivation than usual, Juana says she is reminded of her teacher’s advice. “She told us to put something up in our home that reminds of our goal. I put a picture of my son on our fridge. Every time I look at the picture of my son, I am reminded of who I am working to better myself for.” 

Since 1961, LIFT has provided thousands of adults like Juana with the supportive classroom environment and extra help they need to achieve their educational goals.  With your support, we can transform thousands of more lives.  Here is how you can help:

  • Make a donation to our 2018 Annual Fund Campaign before December 31, 2018.  Our goal is $25,000. Your donation of any amount will help provide LIFT’s adult learners with the support, program, ing and inspiration they need to achieve their educational goals and improve their lives. Click here to donate.
  • Spread the word.  If circumstances do not currently allow you to participate in our campaign through a donation, you can still help by spreading the word about LIFT.  Forward this email to your friends.  Follow us on FacebookLinkedInTwitter and Instagram, and share our Annual Fund Campaign posts with your social media network.