Ivann Mendez still isn’t satisfied.

After moving from Durango City, Mexico, to the United States more than 14 years ago, the 34-year-old finally received his citizenship last year.

Now, the construction worker has his sights on other goals. But since English is not his first language, bridging the gap in his education has become paramount to achieving those goals.

“I had high school in Mexico and finished, but I wanted to do it in English,” said Mendez, of Harker Heights. “If I’m (able) to continue to college, I want to be an architect. This is my dream.”

Mendez recently enrolled in Central Texas College’s English as a second language class and attended his first session March 3 at the Goodwill Learning Center.

The college also offers a GED course, which helps residents get a high school diploma equivalency.

Lorraine Juarez, CTC’s Adult Education Department coordinator, said the college offers the GED and ESL courses for free using grant funding available through the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act, which was passed in 1998.

There is a long waiting list for both the GED and ESL classes, which are typically offered twice a week in three-hour blocks at locations in Killeen, Harker Heights, Copperas Cove, Lampasas, Gatesville and at Fort Hood, Juarez said. The classes usually run from September through May.

Students from all over the world — including Russia, Iraq and Afghanistan — have enrolled in the ESL class.

“I got to (the) USA to make my little dream,” Mendez said. “English is my second language. Spanish is my first, natural language. I want to speak correctly and finish my GED.”

Melinda Montoya, a GED instructor at Central Texas College, said students can range from first-grade reading, writing and math levels to those who just need a refresher before getting their high school diploma equivalency.

“We can start you basically wherever you’re at,” she said. “Some of them are strong in one area (and) weak in another area. I can kind of pinpoint what areas I want them to really develop so then I can work with them one on one.”

Mendez said he likes the individualized attention he gets from the instructor since the slow place makes it easier for him to comprehend the grammar rules he’s learning.

“I don’t write correctly, so it’s going to help me a lot,” he said. “I’m enjoying it. It makes me happy.”

Juarez said each person has their own goal — for some, ESL success is moving from one reading level to the next, communicating with their child’s teacher, going to a doctor’s appointment without a translator or learning enough English to take a citizenship test.

For others, success is moving onto and graduating from the GED course.

“Literacy in itself is important,” Juarez said. “The more knowledge you have, the better it is for you (and) your opportunities for success — whatever you may view that as, it just opens up more doors.”

The college also provides students with information about programs available to them after they finish the ESL and GED course. Montoya said she asks students what they would enjoy doing versus what can they do to make a living.

“There’s a big difference between getting up and going to a job as opposed to getting up and going somewhere you enjoy going every day,” Montoya said. “(Students) always come back, especially when they go out and they’re successful, they always come back and let me know.

“It’s a great feeling to know that ... you helped somebody with that next step for them to start their new life.”

Contact Sarah Rafique at srafique@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7553. Follow her on Twitter at SarahRafique.

I'm the education reporter at the Killeen Daily Herald. Follow me on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SarahRafique

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