Hard Work and Positive Attitudes

Last week, I introduced you to two LSS students who are an inspiration to those around them.

This week, I’d like to add four more to that list.

Each story is so unique, and yet each is normal to the immigrant experience: hard working individuals who succeed despite the difficulties they have faced.

If we watch the news, it is easy to think of immigrants and refugees as large groups of people – strangers, foreigners, perhaps people to even be afraid of.  Here at LSS, we know differently. Each immigrant is an individual with an individual life story.  They instill inspiration, not fear, in those who get to know them.

English instructor Amy Vander Lugt speaks of a woman named Hari from Bhutan.

She’s 72 years old and is sharp as a tack!  She thinks she forgets a lot, but it’s obvious she’s really smart.  She learns faster than some students half her age.  … She’s engaged and funny in the classroom.  She can make the whole class laugh!” Amy explained.


Hari is 72 years old, and loves to laugh.

Another student from Bhutan, Naina, also impresses Amy. “She had a really difficult childhood but got away from those circumstances and has made a good life for herself. She’s inspiring because she can talk about her past even with a smile, and really appreciates what she has now,” Amy said.


Depsite a difficult life, Naina always maintains a positive attitude.

Laura Smith-Hill, the director of the Education Program at LSS, said every adult English learner she meets has an inspiring story.

Their life experiences and triumphs are beyond what I can imagine. … One man from Eritrea, in his 40s, has worked his way up from a beginner in English to scoring 100% on his spelling test and completing the advanced level in spoken English. I was impressed to hear about his work ethic and commitment to family. He shared that his work in production is very hard, but, he says, ‘You have to think it is easy. If you think it’s hard, you won’t make it. I see many people think this way and quit. Not me. I have worked there for 6 years.’”

Laura said that when she asked him what he thinks about the education of children, “he shared how when he gets home from work he oversees his kids’ daily study schedule and successfully instills his values of hard work and diligent study in his young children.”

English teacher Beth Sandager said she is inspired by a student from Kazakhstan.

At the last minute before our holiday party, I asked him to introduce our class song, ‘This Land is My Land’ by Woodie Guthrie. Basically, he said that America is the land of possibility.  In class he has talked about democratic ideals of freedom of speech and freedom of religion – how important they are. …  His vocabulary is a very high level and he has already tested out of my class.  However, he wants to continue as he’s interested in continuing his education.”

I am consistently blown away by the resolve of our students. They want a new and better life in the U.S. And, by their own hard work and positive attitude, they are getting it.

Posted by Julie Boutwell-Peterson

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