A student’s story

At the age of 12, Edgar hated school.

His father had brought Edgar from Mexico to the United States in order to learn English and by November of that first year, Edgar felt as if he hadn’t learned anything and begged not to go to school.

As the only Latino at his middle school in North Manchester, Indiana, there were no programs set up to teach him English and Edgar felt mute and stupid in classes.

After realizing his son’s misery, Edgar’s dad arranged a meeting with the principal who then worked out a special schedule to help Edgar learn English. Three different high school students would come and tutor him during three different study hall periods. Then on some days he’d get out of school early to go to adult English classes.

“I learned 80 percent of my English between November and May of that year,” said Edgar. “After that experience, I didn’t want anyone to feel the way I felt and decided that I wanted to teach English as a New Language (ENL).”

After two years in North Manchester, Edgar decided to go back to Mexico for high school. During his first English class in Mexico, he found himself correcting the teacher and the students started asking him for help with their English homework.

The seed to teach planted itself in Edgar and he organized the students into groups to tutor them.

Two years later Edgar found himself back in the United States starting out at Goshen High School in Goshen, Indiana. This time, he had an ENL program to help him learn English and Edgar worked hard in order to get into the regular high school classes by senior year.

“I tried to immerse myself and focus on learning the language,” said Edgar. “Some kids made fun of me for ‘becoming white’ but I kept going.”

Edgar wanted to teach ENL here or English in Mexico. Due to the cheaper price of university education, Edgar planned to return to Mexico and study English there. But his plans changed when a teacher’s aid encouraged him to pursue a scholarship from Goshen College which was aimed at Latino students.

The teacher’s aid helped Edgar figure out the scholarship, and by the next fall Edgar was a full-time student at Goshen College.

The scholarship was to serve in a new Latino focused leadership program developed though the new Center for Intercultural Teaching and Learning. The Program focused on ethnic identity and leadership development and was a place for Edgar to get the support he needed.

“I really liked the college’s focus on students,” said Edgar. “I felt that this was the place where I was supposed to be.”

During the summer after graduating, he got a job as an ENL teacher at Goshen Middle School. Edgar’s focus and perseverance while learning English in seventh grade made him a good role model for middle schoolers also struggling to learn a new language, in a new town, in a new culture.

In coming to Goshen College where he was encouraged to explore his identity, to connect that identity to others and to develop himself as a servant leader, Edgar realized his dream. He stated, “I always felt that since I came to the States that I needed to give back or somehow be that person that I lacked in teaching me English, I needed to be that person that support somehow… I felt that teaching would be the most immediate support. And now coming through college, through CITL and helping me evolve as a leader, I knew my purpose and what I wanted and now I know how to do it and how to be that person of support!”

Edgar said that he doesn’t want to just teach a language, he wants to instill in his students a value for education.

“I want them to enjoy school and break the stereotypes,” said Edgar. “I don’t just want them to graduate from high school; I want them to graduate from college.”