When Russia invaded Ukraine in early 2022, Oleksandra fled to the United States to live safely with her sister, Svitlana, a long-term resident of State College. Since men were prohibited from exiting Ukraine at the time, she had to leave her husband and 32-year-old son behind. Her early days in State College were characterized by post-traumatic stress, fear, and uncertainty about the fate of her family as well as her own future in this country.

Shortly after her arrival, Oleksandra came to Mid-State Literacy Council (MSLC) with limited English proficiency, little confidence, and a fragile spirit. She was matched with a dedicated ESL tutor and received one-on-one instruction from April – December 2022. Motivated to improve as quickly as possible, she also enrolled in a full slate of intermediate-level ESL classes (9 hours/week) during the Summer and Fall semesters. This intensive period of study, along with the support and encouragement of her MSLC tutor, teachers, staff, and classmates, allowed Oleksandra to develop into a much more competent and confident speaker of English.

As a result, Oleksandra’s life today is dramatically better than when she first arrived. Thankfully, her husband was granted permission to leave Ukraine and has joined her in State College. The couple were able to get full-time jobs with benefits, rent their own apartment and purchase a car. Recently, Oleksandra passed her driver’s license test and earned a promotion at work.

Challenges and uncertainty remain for Oleksandra. But, for now, her hard work and the support of Mid-State Literacy Council have enabled her to become a cherished and fully contributing member of the State College community. War sadly rages in her country, but in our community, Oleksandra lives in peace.

Author: Sue Vidmar, Volunteer Tutor

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