2012/2013 Profiles

Meet the members of our 2012/2013 AmeriCorps team

The 35 individuals who make up our current team bring a wide range of interests and skills to their work at early childhood settings, libraries, pediatric clinics and the Ready to Learn Providence offices. Over the course of the coming year, AmeriCorps member Lauren Lancaster will help us appreciate the many dimensions of her colleagues through this series of profiles. (Profiles of returning members were written by members of the 2011/2012 team, but have been updated.)

AliciaAlicia Lagos is grateful for the change from her previous job – working in a clothing factory in Boston. Here, much of Alicia’s day is spent interacting with people in the community, which is something she thoroughly enjoys. In fact, in her second year with Ready to Learn, Alicia has expanded her role even further, interacting with the community in new and interesting ways and bridging important gaps in the office operations.

Before working in Boston, Alicia spent a year in New York City and absolutely loved it. Her favorite part about the city was the diversity she encountered there on a daily basis. She enjoyed seeing the mixing of so many disparate cultures in one common space.

Before living in NYC, Alicia lived in Colombia, where she met her husband of 15 years.

Alicia does not foresee herself moving back to Colombia or even New York City; she would like to stay in Rhode Island indefinitely, though she admits she is not in the habit of looking too far into the future. Alicia is one to live in the “now.”

Now is the time that Alicia is enjoying all that Rhode Island has to offer. One of her favorite places in the area is the East Side – Thayer Street in particular. Alicia loves the shops and the commotion on that street, which sees all kinds of foot traffic – from college students, to tourists, to lifelong residents of Providence. It is also a great place to find a nice seafood dinner, which just happens to be Alicia’s favorite food.

When she’s not out enjoying the city life that Providence has to offer, Alicia might be enjoying one of her other favorite activities – watching movies or reading. Alicia loves dramas and identifies The Bridges of Madison County as her favorite movie. She finds it a bit more difficult to pick just one favorite book. Alicia has a general love for literature and based on that it would seem she is in just the right program, where she can spread the joy of reading to the youngest people in her community.

Currently Alicia is placed at Pawtucket Day for her second year of service with Ready to Learn. Although it is a big change from her position at the Knight Memorial Library last year, Alicia is enjoying her new responsibilities. She has taken on work with Ready to Learn’s Professional Development team, providing support to home child-care providers and to the office on weekends. She is an invaluable assent this year, and is enjoying every minute of it.

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ShirlyRShirly Rojas immigrated to the United States just three years ago, but you wouldn’t know it. With excellent language skills and a passion for American fashion, Shirly has adopted the American culture quickly. She does say, however, that the hardest part about her move was learning English.

She has enjoyed her new country immensely, primarily because she loves experiencing new places and new cultures. This doesn’t mean she doesn’t miss her home in Barranquilla, Colombia, from time to time. Most of all she misses her friends and family, most of whom are still in Barranquilla. She immigrated to the United States with her husband, Jair Sanchez. They now live in Pawtucket and would like to have kids in the next year or two.

In the meantime, Shirly is enjoying her time with the AmeriCorps team at Ready to Learn Providence and her placement at the WIC office in Central Falls. The best part about her job, she says, is “making a difference in the lives of children and having a good time.”

Shirly comes to the AmeriCorps health-care team with a background in insurance and she is really enjoying the chance to take classes and learn more about the health issues in the community. She also loves playing with the kids. She hopes to stay with the AmeriCorps team for another year, thanks to all of the wonderful experiences she has had.

When she isn’t at work at the WIC office, Shirly likes to listen to romantic music, dance and do Zumba. She also is an excellent video game player, particularly on her Wii. Her inner child comes out when you ask about her favorite movie…Jumanji! And her favorite food isn’t hard to find. It is any Chinese food she can get her hands on – the spicier the better.

This spicy first-year member is a wonderful addition to the team and a lovely person to be around. If you get a chance to meet her, it will make your day.

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HernanHernan Roca is one of Ready to Learn’s most enthusiastic members. Always one to greet you with a handshake and a smile, he brings his best self to work every day.

Currently placed at the Progreso Latino-Early Education Center with Shirly Castellanos, Hernan has extensive experience working in early childhood. In fact, prior to joining the AmeriCorps team at Ready to Learn Providence, he ran a home child-care program for 10 years with his wife.

Working in that setting prepared him for his job at Progreso Latino, but accounting was his profession by training. You could say, however, he was drawn to child care because he took such joy in being a parent to his 33-year-old son. He and his wife have lived in the United States for 26 years, after emigrating from Bolivia, and they now live in Olneyville. His dream vacation, he says, would be to return to Bolivia to visit his family.

A vacation, however, may not be necessary because he is so thoroughly enjoying his time with Ready to Learn. He loves the experience, he says, because of the structure provided through the AmeriCorps program and the opportunities to learn and teach. He also really enjoys working with the children at Progreso Latino, treasuring the relationships he has developed with many of them.

After AmeriCorps, Hernan would like to do something for the community because he believes community engagement is vital. He is considering doing another year in AmeriCorps, depending on the situation: “The organization helps people, and I like being a part of it.”

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BienvenidaBienvenida Hiraldo is quiet, very quiet, but this shy Dominicana is a wonderful addition to the Ready to Learn team. With her soft voice and wonderful insights at team meetings, everyone who has the chance to hear her is luckier for having done so.

Bienvenida has been married to her husband, Rafael, for 27 years and is the mother of three sons, Joel, Jimmy and Junior. In addition to her experience as a mother, she volunteered in Head Start programs and worked for the Education Department before joining the Ready to Learn Providence AmeriCorps team.

These experiences prepared Bienvenida for her work in child care. She is currently at the Dean Head Start with Dolores Roberts, working with children ages three, four and five. She particularly enjoys playing with the children and working on their early literacy skills, and would like to continue in the early childhood field after her time with Ready to Learn is complete.

In her free time Bienvenida loves to listen to music. If this hard worker ever takes a vacation, it would be to travel to Santo Domingo and spend a weekend in a resort.

Bienvenida currently lives in South Providence and most of her family is still in the Dominican Republic. However, she does have two sisters and one brother in New York City who she tries to see as often as possible. True to form, our quietest member lists sleeping and visiting museums as two of her favorite pastimes.

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MarybelWhen Marybel Peguero isn’t at her site, the Meeting Street School, she might be dancing or cycling — but probably not cooking. That doesn’t mean she’s not a fan of food — it’s just the effort that goes into making it that deters her from adding cooking to her favorite hobbies. Like any good member of the R2LP team, food and eating rank high on her list of things she enjoys. But unlike many of the R2LP members, it’s traditional American cuisine that she looks for on a menu, not food from her home country of Colombia.

Since leaving Colombia ten years ago, Marybel has not only enjoyed the change in diet, but much more importantly she is excited about the increase in opportunity for herself and her two children. While her daughter plans to become a model and her son is headed toward a career as a Marine, Marybel hopes to work as a certified nursing assistant in the near future. This is a goal she is working toward by continuing the English classes she started a year ago as a first-year member at R2LP.

Marybel is enjoying her experience with Ready to Learn, especially working with the children and learning about child development. She is especially excited about giving children a better start than she had. In Colombia, she wasn’t able to begin school until the first grade, and only now are preschools becoming more prominent fixtures in that country. However, while she was growing up her mom and dad taught her responsibility, respect and honesty. This had a huge positive impact on her life, as well as on the lives of her many brothers and sisters. She is the baby in a family of five girls and one boy.

Marybel misses every member of her large family dearly but has no plans to return to Colombia permanently. In fact, she is in the process of getting a petition for one of her sisters to move to the United States. The process will take about ten years, which means Marybel’s now-18-year-old nephew would not be able to join his mother in the trip. Perhaps Marybel will still be residing in Rhode Island, though she doesn’t seem to be a huge fan of the weather. She has expressed hopes to go somewhere much warmer, such as South Carolina or Georgia, and muses “maybe I move by myself someday,” if her family members are unwilling to tag along.

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ShirlyCThis is Shirly Castellanos’ s fifth year in the United States and she definitely seems to have found her niche. This is her fourth year serving in a child-care center with the AmeriCorps program at Ready to Learn Providence and Shirly has fallen in love with teaching children. So much in fact, that she is currently striving to get her CDA and become a literacy coach or teaching assistant. Shirly has taken almost all of her CDA classes already, but she would like to continue improving her English and attain her license.

Shirly is now serving at Progreso Latino, an early education center in Central Falls. Being in a classroom is a dream come true for Shirly who has wanted to teach since she was a child. AmeriCorps has not only supported Shirly on her path to becoming a teacher, but it has also continually served as a great support system through the good and the bad. She says that the AmeriCorps team and the Ready to Learn staff are like a family to her and they have helped her grow both professionally and personally.

Ready to Learn isn’t the only support system in Shirly’s life. She is also married with two daughters, one of whom is a new addition to the family. Shirly tries to spend as much time with her daughters as possible and to be the best mom she can be. She has a good example from her father who set the precedent for good parenting, serving as her best friend and biggest supporter.

Shirly not only had a supportive family as a child, but was blessed with a great early childhood education experience as well. She still remembers her preschool experiences in Colombia. One that stands out is making a beautiful jewelry case in her art class. She says that handmade crafts are a staple in Colombia and one thing she misses from her home country. But while she may miss Colombia, she doesn’t have plans to go back anytime soon. Shirly says that if she is going to travel abroad she would love to see Paris.

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PaulaAt only 22 years old, Paula Enciso is one of the youngest AmeriCorps members on the R2LP team, but it seems like she already has life pretty well figured out. Married to her high school sweetheart, mother of an adorable three-year-old and expecting another, Paula has plenty to be happy about.

As one of our most skilled linguists – in both English and Spanish – she can, and will, talk to anyone. She readily helps bridge that gap between mono-lingual English and Spanish members, sometimes even serving as translator during training sessions.

Paula has a generous spirit and when it comes to helping others learn she is enthusiastic and motivated. Before joining AmeriCorps she worked at the Boys and Girls Club in Cumberland. In her life outside of work she still serves as a Sunday school teacher for the children between ages 9 and 11 from her church. Currently, Paula is deciding whether she will continue with an early childhood degree. She is currently taking classes at CCRI that are part of the General Studies program.

This busy schedule fits Paula’s personality, as she describes herself: “I am a person who loves to multi-task or have many responsibilities; if not, I get bored. Last year as an AmeriCorps member doing 40 hours a week I took three CCRI classes and two R2LP college-credited classes. All the classes I finished with As and Bs.”

In addition to her coursework, Paula is also working at the Meeting Street School in the Early Intervention Program. However, she also occasionally works in Early Head Start. Her other work includes developing resources for parents, including a monthly calendar of free or low-cost activities, play ideas, child-proofing homes and sibling involvement ideas. Paula has enjoyed work at her site, stating, “I consider my site a great opportunity for learning new techniques in a professional setting.”

In her home life, Paula often turns to her uncle for comfort and advice during this busy time. “My uncle is still my role model, because of the father figure he resembled, even though I would see my dad every weekend. He was always into being united as a family and up to this date is very conservative and maintains family traditions, moral values and communication.” She identifies him as the person most important in shaping her life. He carries himself humbly and respectfully, she says, while maintaining a role-model status for the young people in his life.

When you get to know Paula, you see she has the ability to play a similar part for the children she surrounds herself with, and it is clear she will strive to be a role model for the many young people she encounters in all facets of her life. Starting with her own daughter, Nataly Sophia, who is “lovable but will tell you things the way she sees them and that’s that,” and expanding to all those children whose lives she influences through work and church, Paula’s kindness and enthusiasm for learning will undoubtedly help shape their lives. And the whole team is anxiously awaiting the arrival of her newest bundle of joy.

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EmilyEmily Schwab, one of Ready to Learn Providence’s many transplants, has found an immediate home in her placement at the Washington Park Community Library. Emily was made to be a librarian. With her thick rimmed glasses and quiet voice and walk, she has found a place in the Community Library that she would love to see become a career. However, not all is as it appears with this Stoors, Connecticut, native.

An outgoing 22-year-old, Emily loves to sing…occasionally loudly and in public. Among her many varied interests are baking (especially the pies that her grandmother taught her), reading, drawing and wandering around her new city. In fact, Providence was one of the main draws to the Ready to Learn team. She describes her decision as being driven by the desire to get to know a new city, along with her passion for working with children. An additional draw was the fact that the program is entirely bilingual.

Emily is one of our only bilingual members whose native language is English. She concentrated in Spanish and Latin American studies in college and enhanced this with a study abroad in Argentina. So, as native Spanish speakers can detect, there is an Argentinean accent to Emily’s Spanish. Some of Emily’s favorite foods also hail from Latin America. Her favorite is tomales.

Among Emily’s hopes for her year of service with Ready to Learn is that it will help her get a direction in her post-grad plans. A recent graduate of Williams College in the Berkshires, Emily studied history and Latin American studies and is thinking about graduate school, but is unsure about her field. She could see herself staying in library science and working as a librarian. In her flights of fancy she also imagines herself as a screenwriter married to actor Joseph Gordon Levitt. With her expansive knowledge of Titanic film trivia, a career in film is possible.

Whether in the library or behind the scenes of the next Hollywood blockbuster, Emily is certain to make a positive impact. Her great attitude and enthusiasm about the work is contagious. Stop by the Washington Park Community Library for dance hour and you will see exactly just how so…

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JohannaOne of our funniest members, Johanna Flores could have made her living doing stand-up comedy judging from the reactions of her fellow AmeriCorps members. At team meetings, Johanna is the first with a joke and the master of hilarious impressions of her family members.

The Colombian native is enjoying her time with R2LP, and her placement at Pawtucket Day Early Education Center. “My experience is good in my site,” she says, “because I have a good relationship with the teacher and we can work together, on the same page, for the well-being of the children.”

Johanna also enjoys the trainings involved in being an AmeriCorps member. In fact, they were a driving force in her application to the team. She hoped that through her involvement with the national AmeriCorps system she would be able to improve herself and create a new life after this AmeriCorps year.

When she isn’t working, Johanna can be found volunteering for a number of organizations, including her church. You would think this married mother of three sons – 18, 16 and 15 – and one foster son, age 4,  would have had her fill of being surrounded by men. To the contrary, she spends much of her free time volunteering with the Boy Scouts of America. Johanna also loves to dance and eat, and says that she loves all food and can’t choose a favorite.

This fun-loving and entertaining addition to the AmeriCorps team is definitely making an impact at her site and around the R2LP office. She is sure to achieve her goal of improving her language and professional skills, and, knowing Johanna, she will have fun along the way.

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niles[1]Niles Brown came to Rhode Island to see a bit of the world. After going to college in the same area of Upstate New York he had grown up in, he felt it was time for a change. This was Niles’s main reason for joining AmeriCorps…new experiences in new places.

So far it has been a successful change for the laid-back guitarist from Watertown, N.Y. Now in his second year with Ready to Learn, Niles has established a connection to the city of Providence and the team at R2LP. His placement at Roger Williams Day Care Center is an exciting new challenge in his second year and he is especially looking forward to getting to know a new group of kids.

Niles didn’t always know that he wanted to work with kids, but it has been a very enriching experience, he says.  It is definitely one that he can see himself engaging with in the future. One career path Niles is thinking about pursuing in the future is social work. Niles joined Ready to Learn just after graduating with a degree in philosophy. With his first education award, he finished up his second major in history.

Not one for extensive long-term planning, Niles is currently just focused on his work. And he is enjoying it, especially reading to the kids. Harold and the Purple Crayon is his favorite book, he says,”because it is mad cool. I wish I had a crayon like that. Also my mom used to read it to me. It gives me flashbacks.” This connection to the children is what makes Niles such a success at his job and an asset at every site he has worked.

Working with young children is a relatively new experience for Niles since the youngest individuals he had worked with prior to coming to Ready to Learn were 10- to 17-year-olds at a camp in the Adirondacks. Working six summers at the camp, Niles became quite the outdoorsman. Climbing and hiking became two of his favorite activities. Now he tries to keep outdoor adventure activities in his regular routine, even if the closest thing to the Adirondacks around here is just a rock-climbing gym in Pawtucket. So if you are ever looking to go for a hike or explore a new park, look for Niles…R2LP’s own adventure enthusiast.

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Rosa

Rosa Villarnovo comes to Ready to Learn Providence from Santa Cruz, Bolivia. She moved here 12 years ago, but still misses many things from her country – the food, the weather and her extended family to name a few. She would consider moving back, but for now she has five very good reasons to stay in the U.S. – her four daughters, and her five-year-old grandson, who all live in Providence. They are the most important things in her life and she says she will relocate to wherever they are living.

When not spending time with her family, Rosa can usually be found working at Manton Head Start, shopping, cleaning or studying. Although nearly fluent in English, she is currently taking classes to improve her second language.

The opportunity to study has been one of her favorite parts of the AmeriCorps program – this and working with children. She loves working with the children so much she is considering doing AmeriCorps for a third year next year. However, she can’t do AmeriCorps forever. Rosa eventually wants to improve her English enough to get her CDA.

This is very different from her childhood dreams. As a child, Rosa dreamt of becoming a stewardess. She thought they were beautiful and she wanted to live a glamorous life full of travel. As she got older, these dreams changed to becoming a teacher. Rosa actually fulfilled this dream, spending four years teaching elementary school and kindergarteners in Bolivia. But the AmeriCorps program has been the first time she’s been back in a classroom since moving to the U.S. Hopefully she’ll get to stay there, and continue to reach her goals of improving herself personally and professionally.

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ShirleyMShirley Mendoza is not the first member of her family to serve in an AmeriCorps program. She first learned of the program with her sister’s involvement in another AmeriCorps program several years ago. Shirley was inspired to get involved as well, thinking it would be a great opportunity to give back to her community and help younger children succeed in life.

Shirley is hoping she can attain a job as a teaching assistant after her time as an AmeriCorps member. As for now, she’s trying to gain all the experience she can at her site, Heritage Park YMCA. Last year Shirley was placed at Varone Head Start and had a wonderful experience working with the many teachers who ultimately became her mentors. She is very happy with her new placement and is thoroughly enjoying her second year with Ready to Learn Providence.

While Shirley loves her coworkers, including another AmeriCorps member Lilibeth Padilla, it’s the children who truly brighten her days. She says they keep her on her toes: “Children are such funny little people. Their answers always surprise me.” Shirley has a lot of hands-on experience with young children. She could just about open her own child-care program with her three children, ages 3, 5 and 7.

Shirley is hoping she can do half as good a job with her own children as her father did with her. She claims that he has had the biggest influence on her life and continually supports her through the ups and downs. He is also the one who taught Shirley Spanish, making her one of our bilingual members.

While Shirley is one of many fully bilingual members, she is the only fully bilingual member whose first language is English. Shirley is originally from Colombia but she moved to the United States at age 3. She was actually mute until age 4, but when she finally did begin to speak, it was in English.

When Shirley started talking, it was hard to get her to stop. Her family members were convinced that she would become a lawyer due to her knack for talking and arguing. Shirley, however, finds she is better suited for motherhood and teaching.

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OmairaOmaira Navarro, originally from Barranquilla, Colombia, moved to the United States over 27 years ago and now lives in Central Falls with her husband. She loves living in the U.S., especially now that her mother, sisters and brothers are also living in the country.

Still, Omaira does miss one important thing about her home country — the food! She says Colombian food is her favorite thing to eat.

Often busy with her extended family, Omaira still finds time to dedicate herself to her position at the WIC office in Central Falls. In fact, Omaira likes the position so much that she would like to make it permanent. She is also considering applying for another year with the AmeriCorps team at Ready to Learn, and hopes to retain her placement at the WIC office. This extra year, she says, will add to her work experience in child care.

But Omaira certainly isn’t lacking in work experience. She trained in computer science, worked at an insurance agency and volunteered with the Diocese of Providence before joining the AmeriCorps team at Ready to Learn. With this diverse work history, Omaira has provided a wealth of information on the AmeriCorps team this year.

Despite her lengthy résumé, Omaira isn’t all work and no play. In her free time, she likes to watch television, use the computer and listen to music. She also thinks about her dream vacation: a trip to the Bahamas with her husband. We hope this hard worker gets this vacation soon, but it sounds like plans for future work are always brewing.

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GeorginaOne of Ready to Learn’s most artistic members is Georgina Rodriguez. As evidenced by her great fashion sense and creativity during meetings, Georgina also brings her artistic talents to work with her at the Berkshire Head Start Center in Providence. She describes art as her “passion and hobby” and she has skills in drawing and painting.

Born in El Salvador, Georgina lives near Johnston with her husband and two sons. Her sons, ages 5 and 10, keep her very busy, but she does find time for her love of art. She describes her placement as the perfect fit because it allows her to work with children every day and cultivate their creativity. “It’s a nice place,” she says. “I get to work with the children and their art every day.” This opportunity is the reason she sought a position with Ready to Learn in the first place. She loves having the opportunity to work with children and to engage in their creativity and artistic process.

Child care, however, was not Georgina’s original career path. She went to school in El Salvador for public relations and worked in the field before immigrating. She still thinks about returning to school for graduate education in public relations, but she is also considering a degree in social work. Given her passions and skills, both fields would be the better for having her.

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JuliaWhile all of the R2LP AmeriCorps members are nice people, Julia Fontalvo is definitely one of the sweetest – she never has a bad word to say about anyone or anything. Naturally, she has been a big hit at Hasbro Children’s Hospital, her placement site this year.

AmeriCorps was Julia’s first venture back into the workforce after spending many years as a stay-at-home mom. She has three adorable boys – nine-year-old twins and a five-year-old. You would think she had her hands full with a house full of boys; they are, however, extremely well behaved children who clearly adore their mom. They are hard to resist, especially in their frequently matching outfits.

While Julia has a lot to miss at home, she loves her position with AmeriCorps. She loves it so much, in fact, that she is now in her second year. She says this has been an amazing opportunity for her, one that she plans to take full advantage of by participating in all of the training opportunities and continuing to improve her English. But her favorite part of AmeriCorps, she says, has been helping others. Serving her community has always been a passion of Julia’s and something she is planning on continuing even after her time with the AmeriCorps.

When she’s not working, Julia likes to spend time with her family, do outdoor activities, watch movies – specifically action movies – and cook. Cooking is a necessity with Julia’s love for fish. It’s a new hobby, one she’s developed since moving to the United States.

Julia grew up in Colombia, where some of her family still lives. However, her parents, sister and brother also immigrated to the United States and are scattered around Central Falls and Providence. While she lived in South Carolina for a short while, she has no plans to leave Rhode Island any time soon.

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It’s no wonder Dolores Roberts wants to work with children – she did such a good job with her own. And she is one proud mom.

Dolores’ three children are now adults, married with kids of their own. Her daughter has her medical degree and is now working for a local nonprofit, one of her sons is a computer engineer, and the other works for Bank of America. And it doesn’t take long to see where they got their brains. Dolores has two bachelor’s degrees – one in chemical engineering and the other in education.

Dolores taught math in the Dominican Republic, but since her license is not valid in the United States she hasn’t been able to formally teach since moving here. That doesn’t mean she’s completely left the world of education. Since moving to the United States, she has worked in an elementary school in New York and as a mentor for two-year-olds in Rhode Island.

Dolores decided to join AmeriCorps to gain experience in early education and she’s going to need it. Dolores has dreams of opening her own home learning center. She is hoping her time at Ready to Learn and working at her placement site, Dean Head Start, will give her the tools she needs to do this.

It seems as if Dolores will be working in education for a long time. This is no surprise, considering she always wanted to be a teacher and she loved teaching so much in the Dominican Republic. Her school and teaching are two of the things she misses most from her home country. But she also misses family members who still live there, her friends, and of course the beach, which is one of her favorite things.

The Dominican Republic isn’t the only place where Dolores has lived. She spent time in Puerto Rico, Panama and New York before finally settling down in Rhode Island. It doesn’t look like she’ll be leaving here anytime soon.

Dolores would like to open her learning center in her home in Pawtucket. In fact, her home is already in the midst of preparation for such a center. This takes a lot of time and energy, but when she does have additional free time, she likes to spend it with her family, going to the park, reading and attending church.

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The musical and athletic Jose Torres is our AmeriCorps team’s youngest member. You should not, however, let his young age lead to any misconceptions. This 18-year-old is quite mature for his age and ready to show the world what he is made of.

One of eight children, Jose is in the middle.  Born in Cambridge, Mass., he now lives in Providence, where he was a student before joining the AmeriCorps.

Jose joined the Corps to get work experience before going to college, but he is enjoying his time with Ready to Learn so much that he is considering another year. Placed at the Mariposa Center, Jose has found work a wonderful experience. He loves the peaceful environment, he says. “Mariposa is a great child-care center – the feeling that I received, the welcome. This center is based on body control and self-reflection…we do a lot of yoga and storytelling. We also focus on expressing yourself…believe in what you feel.”

His enjoyable experience doesn’t end with his placement. Jose is also very happy with the R2LP team. “R2LP,” he says, “is awesome, the people are great. My favorite part of being a member is being part of family and friends. We all work together and always give 100 percent. The staff is amazing. R2LP 2013, here we come!”

When Jose isn’t at the center or in the office, he is probably playing one of the many sports he loves (basketball and baseball to name two) or is making and recording music. He is wonderful at beatbox, which he performs for the kids at the center. He especially likes playing the drums and working on studio beats.

This energetic young man is certain to impact not only his center but also the R2LP AmeriCorps team this year. His enthusiasm for the work and the environment is contagious and you can’t help but be affected by it.

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Clara Vargas is a woman of many hidden talents. She can dance, cook, play volleyball and ping pong, and is musically inclined. She is also one of our bilingual members.

Clara is often asked to step into the role of translator and teacher for those who cannot speak both languages. She did not, however, grow up learning two languages; she first learned English traveling to the United States as an adolescent.

Although originally from the Dominican Republic, Clara, beginning at the age of 13, came to New York every summer to visit family and take English classes. Her English skills weren’t the only thing Clara was expanding upon over the summers. She would often skip lunch so she could use that money to expand her wardrobe as well. Luckily, along with her fashion sense, her English vocabulary stuck with her and when she moved to the United States nine years ago, Clara picked it up quickly.

This is not surprising considering how dedicated Clara has always been to her studies. She is certainly an intellectual type whose favorite activities include reading and writing poetry. Clara claims that this is partly due to her early education. As a young child, Clara was taught by a retired teacher who got her excited about school. When she entered elementary school she was able to jump to third grade after one year because she was so far ahead.

Due to this quick advancement, Clara graduated from high school two years early and went on to study law for six years. Her studies in law culminated in her becoming a civil lawyer. Clara was successful in her law career, which makes sense given her spirited personality and passion for helping others.

Clara had to leave law behind after moving to the United States, but she quickly transitioned into her role as a stay-at-home mom for her three children – ages eleven, nine, and two and a half. Once meeting them, it is easy to see the resemblance to their mother. Her girls both have her sweet nature and quick wit.

While it was hard giving up being home full time with her children, Clara got involved with the AmeriCorps program so that she could combine her passions for education and service. In her time with Ready to Learn she has served in a child-care center, in the Ready to Learn office, and is now at the WIC-Friendship Head Start Office. Clara is enjoying her new placement, and it is clear that she has a knack for mentoring and teaching. Not only is she good with children, she also takes it upon herself to act as mentor to many of our first-year AmeriCorps members.

This eagerness to help others most likely stems from Clara’s mom who had the biggest influence on her life. Clara’s mother never hesitated to help anyone in need; she was always taking in family members who needed a place to stay. As a result, Clara grew up in a big family, constantly surrounded by cousins, aunts and uncles. Clara has since taken on that philosophy of helping those around her by continually brightening her fellow members’ days and lending a hand whenever anyone asks.

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Magalys Medina is unforgettable. A force of nature in the classroom and a caretaker in the workplace, this former teacher is always there with a kind word or advice for anyone who needs it. Many at Ready to Learn Providence have found her years of experience a valuable resource to the AmeriCorps team.

Teaching is a life’s work for Magalys. As a teacher in her native country of the Dominican Republic, she taught grammar, social studies, history and literature to both primary school children and adults. This extensive experience makes her well suited for work on the R2LP AmeriCorps team. She hopes to find work as a teacher’s assistant after her time here.

Her placement at Carter Head Start is a great fit for this driven woman, who is enjoying her work there. “I am feeling very happy,” she says. “I like the job, because I enjoy working with the children. Every day is more exciting for me.”

Magalys is a positive force in the center, and hopes to motivate the children and those around her. It is her passionate belief that children and the family unit are the basis of a healthy society. It is important, she says, to nurture children and give them love so that they may develop into members of society.

Magalys has three children of her own: a daughter, 27, and two sons, 32 and 38. Magalys’ driving philosophy, which guides her interactions with children, her coworkers and the world around her, is to believe in people, to imitate the good, not the bad, and to love the world despite its flaws. These wise words may help to explain the woman who has come to be the mentor of so many this year.

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A proud Taylor Swift fan, Josiah Mardell is more mature than his taste in music might suggest. Our youngest member by eight days, Josiah’s connection to Ready to Learn Providence started prior to his own year of service. His father, Ben Mardell, works with Ready to Learn as a consultant, facilitating seminars and projects that increase the visibility of our youngest children.

Josiah’s own desire to join the AmeriCorps came from his interest in the mission and outreach of Ready to Learn: “I joined R2LP because I wanted to get experience in early childhood education and because R2LP has a wonderful mission statement.” Placed at Federal Hill House, he has been given the chance to pursue his interest in early childhood in an interactive engagement with children in the community. And the placement has been very enjoyable for Josiah: “My favorite thing is the people. The kids are terrific. The parents are nice. And the staff is awesome.”

After his year of service Josiah will pursue a college education at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. He currently is undecided about his major and has many interests, mainly in the humanities and social sciences. He will use his education award to offset the costs of his education, adding to the benefit of his year of service.

In his free time, when he isn’t singing Taylor Swift karaoke, Josiah is playing, reading, watching TV or hanging out with his many friends. He also loves to eat, and he spends much of his time fantasizing about his dream meal. When asked just what that meal would be, he responded: “If I were on death row it would be an appetizer of onion rings, an entrée of pulled pork and pizza with a chocolate milkshake to drink and chocolate cake for dessert. I don’t know how it gets better than that.”

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Lauren Lancaster hails from Columbus, Ohio. While she has relocated to the East Side of Providence with her dapper fiancé, Ben, a PhD student at Brown studying chemistry, her heart remains in the Heartland. There you will find her alma mater, a big, close-knit family and dear friends. While it can be difficult for her to be so far from her people, the newest member of her family, her kitten Mr. Fitz, has managed to keep her distracted from too much homesickness.

Originally attracted to Ready to Learn because of the introduction it would provide to early childhood education, a field in which she is a novice, Lauren has found her experience to be invaluable in providing not only practical teaching skills, but also unique perspectives on education issues.

Aside from her extra hours working with the Ready to Learn office staff to improve outreach and media presence, produce the AmeriCorps newsletter and write all of our team’s bios, Lauren is primarily working in the Children’s Department at the Providence Public Library. There you can find her helping Anne and Bonnie run crafts and P.J. Story Time, doing one-on-one reading with kids or preparing to make her family child-care center visits with her bag of books and tricks. When she’s not working (which isn’t often), she’s probably reading, cuddling with Mr. Fitz, hunting for a good restaurant with her betrothed, or eating a frozen yogurt on Thayer Street.

After her year of service, Lauren would love to apply either for a position working at a library or a school. Already with a master’s in English from Carnegie Mellon University, she would be a perfect candidate for a job as a high school English teacher or school librarian. However, Lauren also has a not-so-secret obsession with clothes, qualifying her to be either a personal shopper or editor of a fashion magazine.

Whether it’s in the stacks, the editing room or the classroom, Lauren is sure to delight all with her Midwest gal charm and to do lots of good in the world. If you want to be her friend, or read a book with her, make sure you visit the library. For extra points, give her a pickle: they’re her favorite food! But be careful, because if you give Lauren a pickle … she’ll want to eat the whole jar! (Written by Emily Schwab).

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Lilibeth Padilla, or Lili to her friends, is a joyful addition to the Ready to Learn Providence AmeriCorps team. Never without a smile on her face, this Colombian native has brought her positive attitude to work since day one and has made an impression on those around her.

The mother of two girls, 11 and 2, Lilibeth spends most of her free time with her daughters. Her experience with them has given her a valuable perspective, which she brings to work in hilarious stories. Lilibeth’s stories about her older daughter never fail to entertain the group.

Placed at Heritage Park YMCA, Lilibeth has been given the opportunity to put her experience to work. The best part about her work, she says, is that she gets ample time to communicate and interact with the children and the teacher. Ideally, Lilibeth would like to become a teacher’s assistant after her service with R2LP, because she loves to work with children, especially in early childhood settings. Working in the AmeriCorps, while seemingly a perfect fit for Lili, is a family affair. Her sister Julia is also in the Corps this year.

When she isn’t working or spending time with her children, you can find Lili enjoying her favorite food (tacos) and maybe trying to convince you to watch a scary movie. This brave mother says that almost no movies scare her and she can’t wait until her daughter is old enough to watch with her. In the meantime, Lili is enjoying their childhood and hopes to take them to Disney World while they are still young. It also happens to be her dream vacation.

This fun, energetic and kind soul is a wonderful addition to the R2LP AmeriCorps team. Her passion for her work and her joy in life translates to a person that everyone wants to be around. She will certainly go far this year, and beyond.

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Cecilia Benitez moved to the United States just over two years ago from Ecuador, and now is one of the Ready to Learn program’s many bilingual members. Although she would like to keep improving her English enough so that she can eventually go back to school, she has already come a long way in her second year in the program. When she does return to school, it will be to complete the degree program in clinical psychology that she left in Ecuador in order to move to the United States to be with her husband.

Cecilia did not move here alone though – her two children also joined her. Cecilia has a four-year-old boy and a nine-year-old girl. They both enjoy school, although she says her daughter has struggled a bit with the language transition. However, they are both resilient and very active children. This is unsurprising; when asked about her own childhood, Cecilia says that she was very active, playful, and tended to “get into things.”

Thankfully, Cecilia had very patient parents, who, she says, were the biggest influence on her life. They were always very professional in their work, they showed her right from wrong, and they were sincere in whatever they did, she says. Cecilia tries to use their teachings every day in her own life and at work with the children.

Cecilia is currently placed in Ready to Learn’s Pre-Kindergarten Classroom at CCRI. She has thoroughly enjoyed working with the children and helping the community. Now in her second year at Ready to Learn, Cecilia is considering the AmeriCorps program again if given the opportunity. The opportunities for education and experience it has offered have been invaluable, she says.

In addition to working with children in the classroom, Cecilia also enjoys spending time with her own children – reading, dancing and cooking. Her specialty is a pork and beans dish from Ecuador. Food continues to be one of the things she misses most from her home country, along with her friends, her uncle and aunt, and the beaches.

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Almost 20 years ago, Lorenza Marchena came to the U.S. seeking a brighter future for her daughter, who was born around that same time.

Like many of our AmeriCorps members, Lorenza hails from Colombia, where most of her family still resides. She is the third oldest in a family of ten children –  only a few of whom also immigrated to the U.S. The family that Lorenza does have here, aside from her husband and her daughter, live in New Jersey.

Before joining AmeriCorps, Lorenza worked for the school department as a teacher’s assistant. This wasn’t her first time working with young children; Lorenza worked as a kindergarten teacher when she lived in Colombia. Despite coming into the program with so much experience, she views her time with AmeriCorps as aiding in her personal and professional growth and development.

After her year of service, Lorenza would like to open her own child-care program. It comes as no surprise then, that one of the highlights of her AmeriCorps experience has been the training sessions.

Of course, Lorenza isn’t just enjoying her studies – she is also having plenty of fun working at Roger Williams Day Care Center. At this site, she gets to spend the bulk of her workweek running around, playing games, and doing literacy activities with 2-, 3-, and 4-year-olds.

When Lorenza isn’t working she may be reading, making clothes, decorating her home, or spending time with her daughter. While Lorenza’s own childhood dreams of becoming a psychologist haven’t come true, she fully supports her daughter’s aspirations to become an architect. Lorenza recognizes how powerful a force her own parents were in her life, stressing the value of education and always pushing her to do her best. Lorenza’s daughter no doubt receives similar guidance and support from her mother on her path toward success.

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As a former AmeriCorps VISTA member, Amy Berthiaume is no stranger to the long hours and hard work required in the AmeriCorps. Currently a resident of Providence, Amy is a New England native born in Bangor, Maine. When asked why Providence was a good choice, she replied that “it kept her close to her family.” Her parents, two sisters and brother-in-law are all still living in Maine.

During this year of service Amy is working at Mount Hope/East Side YMCA. She is happy with her placement because she had hoped to work with a program that dealt with young children directly. Her favorite part is reading to the kids, but she also loves that during naptime she gets to read for herself. Amy is in the process of assembling a booklist for her naptime reads, so if you see her, feel free to share a title or author to build her collection.

After this second year of service Amy hopes to use her education award to pay back previous student loans. In terms of future career plans, she says, “I think my dream job is to have a job where I enjoy going to work every day.” She is thinking about staying in Rhode Island for a little longer and pursuing a position at a child-care center. She is interested in getting a degree in early childhood education and would love to find a center that supported this goal.

In her free time Amy is reading, obviously. But she also enjoys exploring Pinterest to find new do-it-yourself projects and recipes. Her favorite thing is “doing absolutely nothing with people I absolutely love.” This hard worker is sure to make an impact during this year of service, and perhaps even longer if she graces Rhode Island in the future.

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Many of our AmeriCorps members come from large families, but Andrea Cabrera has created her own. She could start a basketball team with the number of boys in her family – and have some left over for substitutions. Her six sons ranging in age from 4 to 27 and her husband of over 21 years make her the only female in her immediate family. Thankfully, her two granddaughters help to alleviate the feeling of being the odd-woman-out.

Family is an important part of Andrea’s life, and this is one of the reasons she enjoys her position at Ready to Learn Providence. As a fourth-year member, Andrea is a core member of the Ready to Learn team.  Andrea is also working toward her degree in medical translating and also on a CDA. Her placement at Ready to Learn has helped her with both of these goals.

With her education award from AmeriCorps,  Andrea hopes to take some health classes and explore further opportunities in that area of work. She is especially interested in finding work as a translator. Her experience in her years of service at St. Joseph’s, as well as her experience at Ready to Learn, has given her the confidence and experience necessary to pursue these goals.

It was Andrea’s desire to try something new that led her to R2LP in the first place. She herself was ready to learn and to expand her horizons; in the four years she has been affiliated with R2LP, she has done both. She loves learning from different cultures and sharing her own with others. Andrea has undoubtedly helped other members in their pursuit of becoming bilingual, as she is always ready and willing to share her own experiences and thoughts – in both Spanish and English.

In her free time, Andrea continues to play an important part in her community. She is involved in seven Sunday school classrooms and remains an active participant in her church in other ways as well. Her other interests include reading and cooking – she loves to try new dishes. Her favorite hobby, though, is spending time with her youngest son, and her family in general.

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Philip Huerta is one of the program’s Providence natives. Born in Providence, Phil now lives in the South Side, near Cranston. Despite Phil’s local flavor, however, his roots are a little more exotic. Both of his parents were born and raised in the Philippines. They met after moving to the United States.

If one thing can be said about this native son, it is that he is driven. When asked why he joined Ready to Learn Providence and the AmeriCorps, Phil cites his goals of expanding his work experience and advancing a professional career.

Phil plans on attending graduate school after completing his year of service with the AmeriCorps. His dream job would incorporate a significant amount of mental stimulation, be personally and professionally rewarding, and would also have a flexible enough schedule to allow for time off to pursue his other interests. He anticipates that a career in school psychology would meet these needs.

In his year of service, Phil has been placed at the Brown/Fox Point Early Childhood Education Center. Phil enjoys interacting with the children and parents there, whom he has found to be exceptionally bright and involved. He also likes being on the East Side near Brown University.

Despite his focus and passion, Phil does enjoy his time with friends. He particularly likes to listen to a unique genre of music known as Math Rock. Phil has been asked by several members of the Ready to Learn team for an education in this distinctive style. Perhaps a performance is in Phil’s bright future.

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If you happen to be walking the streets of Providence and are passed by a slight brunette on a speeding bike, it is probably Ready to Learn’s own biking enthusiast Becca Gallegos. Born in Littleton, Colorado, and living in Providence, Becca is no stranger to Ready to Learn. A member in 2010-2011, Becca took a year away and moved back to Colorado in 2011. But she heard the sirens call and returned to Ready to Learn for another year of service in the 2012-2013 year.

In her previous year of service Becca served at Brown/Fox Point.  Looking for a change, Becca was placed in the Pre-K classroom at Beautiful Beginnings Child Care Center, where she also does the after-school program for elementary school-aged students in the afternoon. Her favorite thing about her placement is the kids, Becca says. She loves their energy and thinks they are amazing. The most rewarding part of her job, according to Becca, is that she gets to be someone in their lives they can trust.

One of the benefits of being an AmeriCorps member that Becca fully intends to use are the doors the program opens to education. She plans to complete a bachelor’s degree in elementary education after her year of service. She is grateful for the AmeriCorps education award, which will help her pursue this. Becca’s dream job would ultimately be teaching English as a second language to children and adults. However, she thinks she would be happy as long as she gets to teach.

Becca has an alternative career path and it is linked to her favorite food — tacos. In this fantasy job she would run a taco truck/fruit stand, sport long grey braids and have a pack of dogs hanging out of her truck. This career would combine Becca’s love of cooking delicious meals for herself and the people she cares about, her love of exploring the city, and an infectious personality that allows her to engage in conversation with anyone.

No matter what career path Becca follows, she is guaranteed to be a success. At only 20 years old she is one of the program’s youngest members this year and is still a veteran. So keep your eye out for the speeding cyclist, listening to her tunes and exploring the gorgeous city of Providence. That is when she isn’t exploring the rest of the coast (and particularly Boston) with her Beantown boyfriend.

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Lizeth Escorcia is one of the AmeriCorps team’s quietest members…that is until you get to know her. Once you do, this young mother will tell you about her passion for her son, for service and her joy for life and family.

Born in Barranquilla, Colombia, Lizeth immigrated to the United States at a young age. She is one of our many bilingual members (although she would never tell you that). Lizeth has lived in many places throughout Rhode Island, including Central Falls and Pawtucket. She now lives in Federal Hill in Providence, which she loves because “it is a bigger city with more things to do.”

Not that Lizeth has much free time. Between her work at the Ready to Learn Pre-K Classroom at CCRI, her steady boyfriend  and her adorable six-month-old son Leon, this young woman is always on the go. But, she says, she wouldn’t have it any other way. When she isn’t working, she is probably either reading or cleaning. That’s right, this hard worker describes one of her hobbies as cleaning.

Lizeth joined the AmeriCorps program at Ready to Learn Providence because of the doors it would open for her, and for her son. “It is giving me an opportunity to work with kids and get experiences that will help him when he gets older,” she says. Before joining the AmeriCorps, Lizeth was a sales associate at JC Penney’s for three years.

Lizeth’s knowledge of the AmeriCorps program at Ready to Learn was the result of her friendship with one of our alumni, Jessica Bustamante. And while the program is a perfect fit for Lizeth right now, her ultimate goal is to work as a radiologist. But for now she is just enjoying her work with the kids, who she describes as “funny and great.”

She also loves the friendships she has built through the program and looks forward to the experiences it will offer her and her son in the future.  “My experience in AmeriCorps so far has been great,” she says. “It is giving me the knowledge and experience to improve my son’s future.”

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Esteban Hurtado is well known among the staff and the AmeriCorps team for being one of our hardest working and dedicated members. This is his third year working at the Ready to Learn office and it is still hard to get him to go home at the end of the day. In fact, staff members joke about setting up a cot for him here.

But it isn’t all work with Esteban. Despite being serious about his job, he is also one of our silliest members who can’t help but make others laugh.

Esteban’s work ethic and his affinity for helping others are some of the many good qualities that have drawn him to the world of service. Esteban worked for many years as a manager of a fabric company in Colombia. However, after moving to the United States three years ago he felt like it was time to give back.

Since joining the AmeriCorps team, Esteban has realized how much he enjoys the environment of a nonprofit, the people, and the nature of the work itself. Needless to say, Esteban’s placement at Ready to Learn has been a great fit. It is such a great fit that Esteban would like to sign on for a fourth year in the office. He says that he’s been given many opportunities for personal and professional development here and he is not ready to give that up.

Not only has Esteban gotten the opportunity to work with the administrative side of a nonprofit, he has also gotten the chance to fulfill one of his true passions: teaching others. Esteban regularly serves as a mentor to many of his fellow AmeriCorps members. He also organizes and teaches a weekly computer class for Spanish speakers.

Esteban’s attraction to teaching isn’t surprising given his intellectual disposition. He admits to being a very reflective person who enjoys his alone time for quiet introspection and reflection. In addition to this, Esteban also enjoys reading, working with electronics, following current events, and spending time with his family.

Esteban is married with two grown children. His daughter is a lawyer and his son is in college studying music. Besides this immediate family, Esteban has no other relatives in the United States. He grew up with a large family but they all still reside in Colombia. Naturally Esteban misses them and his home country. However, he has enjoyed his time in the United States and thankfully has no plans to move back to Colombia any time soon.

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If you didn’t know Adrian Molina’s young age, you would never guess it. Wise beyond his years and more mature than many young men his age, Adrian is a valuable asset to our AmeriCorps team.

A hard worker,  Adrian is not only putting in a 40-hour week at his placement at Hasbro Children’s Hospital, he also works with the Boy Scouts of America and at the Gap Kids/Baby Gap Outlet in Wrentham.  In his free time he can also be seen playing soccer around his home in Central Falls.

However, work (and the occasional game) isn’t the only thing keeping the 19- (soon to be 20-) year-old busy. Adrian is also a devoted father to a beautiful 20-month-old daughter, Isabella. His daughter, he says, is the driving force behind all that he does.  “Since she was born, she has been my motivation. I do whatever I can to give her the best life I can provide.”

And he is working hard to do just that. Already half-way through his undergraduate work, Adrian plans on completing his degree after his service with AmeriCorps, and then going on to get a graduate degree in biology or a medical degree. Ultimately he would like to be a pediatrician.

This goal makes his placement ideal. As he says, it is “great to work towards helping kids as well as working with pediatricians.” Ideally, he would love to do one more year with Ready to Learn at Project Launch before returning to school.

Whatever happens next for Adrian, this bright young man will definitely be a success. With his positive attitude, his love for his family and his determination, he is sure to go far. As Adrian says, it is important to “make the best of every opportunity.” So whether he is at Ready to Learn, back at school or working in his community, Adrian is going to bring his whole heart into it.  For now, the Ready to Learn Providence AmeriCorps team is happy to call him one of their own.

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Mirna Carrillo is well known among the AmeriCorps members and the Ready to Learn staff – she’s the member with a smile always on her face and a kind word ready. It’s difficult not to be in a good mood when she’s around. This bubbly personality makes her a hit with adults and children alike.

It’s easy to see the children love her and this adoration is not one-sided. Mirna’s face lights up when she talks about teaching. When asked what attracted her to this program she replies, “I always wanted to be a teacher. Even when I was young I would make my little cousin play school with me and I was always the teacher.” While living in Guatemala, Mirna taught high school. She hopes to improve her English enough this year so she can get certified to teach in the United States. She hopes to teach Spanish once certified.

This is Mirna’s third year with the AmeriCorps at Ready to Learn and she is excited about her new placement with the Providence Community Library in Mount Hope. She is especially excited about the new challenges her placement will bring, such as creating activities for the family child-care providers. However, if the first few weeks of her placement are any indication, Mirna will thrive. She is already known as “La Reina de Colores” or “The Queen of Colors” due to her excellent color-based activities.
Mirna also has a very happy home life. She relocated to the United States because the majority of her family resides in Rhode Island. She talks of staying here permanently and hopefully having her own children. After growing up with five siblings, Mirna wants to have a large family as well. For now, it’s just her and her husband. That doesn’t mean she doesn’t have her share of children in her life. Besides working in a classroom, Mirna also teaches Sunday school, and has four nieces she absolutely adores.

Given Mirna’s love for children and reading, Ready to Learn and Providence Community. Mirna claims that when she was young she would read absolutely everything. She looked forward to going to her grandparents’ house chiefly because it was full of books and she could spend hours leafing through them. This passion for reading is what drove her to get a bachelor’s degree in literature.

Mirna earned her literature degree in Guatemala, so most of her reading was done in Spanish; however, she says that she also loves to read William Shakespeare. While reading Shakespeare inspires Mirna, the book that has influenced her most is her Bible. And while she still enjoys reading in her free time, most of Mirna’s reading is done with the children, both in the family child-care centers and at the library.

Mirna’s reflection on her experience with the AmeriCorps at Ready to Learn and now at the Community Library is a beautiful one. As she states, “Each person who comes into your life is an opportunity God gave you to make a difference.”

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Ana Velez has a unique story of motherly sacrifice that sets her apart. After emigrating from Medellin, Colombia, as a young woman, Ana moved first to New York City and then to Pawtucket, giving birth to a second son shortly after the move. One day, crossing the street in Pawtucket, Ana was struck by a car. She managed to shield not only her young first-born son who was walking next to her, but also the new-born baby she was pushing in a carriage. After staying in the hospital for months, Ana was released into the care of her own mother. Her story of motherly courage lives on as Ready to Learn legend.

Ana, who is still a resident of Pawtucket and living with her mother, had a third son 15 years after the accident. She calls her mother, who is a friend as a well as a mother, her main source of support. In fact, Ana hopes to one day take a trip to Greece with her so they can enjoy the beautiful views of the Mediterranean and eat the delicious food.

Ana enjoys spending her free time shopping and spending time with her sons. However, Ana is focused on making the most of her AmeriCorps year, because of the “opportunities it offers to experience other fields.”

Ana is placed at St. Joseph’s Hospital where she works with the doctors on early-detection screenings. The satisfaction she gets from her job, she says, is being able “to help a parent get a screening done, and to help the doctors do early detection so children get help in time.” She also loves working with the kids and “seeing how they learn and feel.”

The enjoyment Ana has gotten out of her placement fits with her future career goals. Ana would love to be a registered nurse. This suits her previous experience as a medical assistant and phlebotomist and her desire to stay in the health-care field after her service at St. Joe’s has ended.

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AmeriCorps seemed like a perfect avenue for Miguelina Rodriguez, whose passions include working with children and volunteering.

Since joining the team three years ago, Miguelina has been serving at Wanskuck Community Library. She mainly works with children within the library and travels to the homes of different family child-care providers. Her favorite part of the job, she says, has been interacting with the children and hoping that she’ll have some sort of effect on their lives. She has learned a great deal working at the library and in the trainings she has taken, but she’s equally grateful, she says, for the personal support she has received from the people here. She calls Ready to Learn a second family.

This doesn’t mean Miguelina is lacking in family. Although originally from the Dominican Republic, Miguelina has two children – ages 16 and 32 – and four sisters who all live in the area. An affinity for children apparently runs in the family – the older of her two children is a family child-care provider in the community.

Miguelina is currently working on her own CDA, and will have completed it at the end of this service year. She hopes to continue working with children after finishing her service with AmeriCorps. To achieve this goal she has taken many classes on early childhood growth and development and is also taking English classes at Rhode Island College this fall. Starting in January she will be enrolled in the Childhood Specialist class at RIC and is excited to use her new school in her family child-care provider visits.

In her time with the AmeriCorps, Miguelina has worked hard, learning about children and improving her English. She has taken several classes over the years to improve her English and they’ve paid off. Miguelina is now one of our more bilingual members. She isn’t, however, all work and study – Miguelina also likes to shop, read, and volunteer with the elderly members of her church in her spare time.