Merale Gayman - Horizon Educational Alliance / Goshen College

Merale Gayman

Horizon Education Alliance / Goshen College

Published June 2023

Life-Changing Lessons

The English language adult education classes I took – first with the Horizon Education Alliance and then at Goshen College – changed my whole life completely.

I came to the United States from the Philippines in 2016, with my husband, and I did not have any language skills here. I was able to get work as a care-giver in South Bend, but even after taking some basic language courses I struggled to find my confidence speaking English. I felt I would say something wrong or I would not understand someone, or they would not understand me.

But once I got into the language courses with HEA I realized that all of my teachers cared so much…They cared about me. My teachers at HEA helped me a lot and encouraged me to enroll at Goshen College for English Language Learning classes. And by the time I did start those ELL courses I had so much encouragement and support from everyone involved in the partnership between HEA and Goshen College – I knew that if I worked hard I could learn English and have this new life I’m actually living right now.

My early life in the Philippines was difficult. I’m one of five children, and my parents had no education and did not have jobs. We were poor. Learning was difficult for me when I was younger because I usually went to school on an empty stomach and I had no school supplies, or even shoes to wear. I think a lot of people don’t really know what it feels like to have so little.

It was very difficult to study at home. I left school when I was young to help out my family – we all did different things to try and earn money. My dad would dive into the ocean looking for steel to sell and my brothers and I would hunt for plastic to sell at the junk shop. It was non-stop, and I also sold vegetables and washed clothes as I grew older. Education just was not a part of my early life.

In 2014 I met my husband and he moved to the Philippines to be with me, and we lived in Dumaguete. We had a nice house and were happy and things were good, but one day (the notoriously-violent Islamic separatist group) Abbu Sayyaf landed near our home and the army came to our neighborhood hunting for them. The army stood and guarded the gate to our house. It was so frightening. The Abbu Sayyaf left to invade Bohol and the Philippine army tracked them down and killed them. It was then that my husband and I decided to leave and move to America.

Once I got here it was a relief, it was good to be here. But it was also quite difficult – not knowing the language. Everything was a big change. I remember I was always hungry for rice and fish at first…and the winter and all the snow was like nothing I had ever seen. One thing I knew was that I had to learn the language to have a chance at success.

My classes with HEA gave me a good foundation in English, and so much hope, and then the classes through Goshen College were just really important for me. I had amazing teachers there who were so positive, kind, and encouraging. And they also challenged me, they pushed me to keep trying, and keep learning, and not give up. And Goshen College provided us with workbooks and resources and an online program and everything we needed to learn.

I love my homeland, and my husband and I still go back to visit. But in the Philippines, and so many other parts of the world, the poor are ignored and have no chance to improve. There are no jobs for them. My experience coming to Indiana, and looking into adult education possibilities, is that people reach out to you here and try to provide you with the chances to improve. Everyone in my journey here has been friendly, and happy to teach me without judging me. That is why I push myself to keep working on learning.

In December of 2022 I began classes through HEA’s Adult Pathways program to get my high school diploma. I study math, writing, science, social studies, and reading. I spend two hours or more online each day, learning. It’s not easy, but I am getting there and I won’t give up. My goal is to get my diploma and then look at what other opportunities are available. I really want my children to be able to continue in school and get their diplomas as well.

After I get my diploma, I hope to become a US citizen. I am just so proud to be here — and I speak my English with confidence, now.

Goshen College, in partnership with Horizon Education Alliance (HEA), offers English classes in two different locations. For more information, contact Rocio Diaz at (574) 535-7808 or srociod@goshen.edu. HEA has been working with educators, businesses, and community leaders with the shared belief that education is the key to unlocking the potential of all our people. For more information about HEA’s Adult Education programs, please call (574) 970-5820 or learn more on their website.

Written by Jake Sandock