Learning English at CCRI allowed Martha De Leon to connect to and thrive in her Providence neighborhood.
Now, as she prepares to graduate from CCRI, the Dominican Republic native wants to share the gift of language with other non-English speakers.
“My experiences at CCRI have meant everything to me, and they have motivated me so much to want to help,” De Leon said.
De Leon arrived at CCRI in 2012, when she enrolled in ESL courses shortly after her family relocated to Rhode Island. It took her only two years to learn conversational English, which she said has allowed her to flourish at CCRI. She leaves CCRI as a student others have recognized for her confidence, hard work and willingness to help others.
“She is what I call a quiet leader. You don’t have to ask her to do things. She is so intuitive,” said Laurie Sherman, associate professor of English and Phi Theta Kappa adviser. “She’s very calm and she is never flustered. When she says she is going to do something she is absolutely going to do it.”
As she prepared to graduate, De Leon got some welcome news: She was named a Coca-Cola New Century Scholar, selected from a pool of 1,800 applicants from community colleges based on her academic achievement, leadership, service and other significant endeavors. The award is given each year to the top-scoring community college student in every state. In April, she traveled to New Orleans for the national awards ceremony.
She said the award was a culmination of hard work and support she received along the way.
“I always thought I had to do it myself, but CCRI has shown me it’s fine to ask for help if you don’t know. People are willing to help,” she said. “I feel well prepared and I feel like if I do have any questions along the road I have people at CCRI I can turn to who will answer them.”
She will graduate with a 3.75 GPA and a degree in General Studies and will study early
childhood education at Rhode Island College.
She plans to use her experiences learning English as a teaching tool with young students. She wants to teach English as a second language to help students connect, communicate and thrive within their communities.
“You need to be able to communicate with other people, to have a conversation with other people. If you don’t know English then you can’t do that,” De Leon said. “I know how hard it can be, especially when you live in a home where your parents don’t speak languages.”
De Leon is always working on her English, she said, and she already has plenty of experience using her bilingual status to help others.
At an internship De Leon landed through CCRI, she worked with local ESL kindergarten students whose parents couldn’t speak English. She provided these students with help they otherwise could not have received at home. She also worked as a tour guide at the Rhode Island State House, where she helped translate parts of the tour for Spanish-speaking guests.
CCRI has given her confidence and allowed her to connect to her community, she said.
De Leon credits her role in PTK, an international honor society for community and junior colleges that recognizes a school’s most successful students academically, with changing her experience at CCRI.
“PTK really helped me open more doors. Because of that I have relationships and I have those friends who I know have my back,” she said.Share this story
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