By PABLO ESPINOSA
Adrianna Figueroa immigrated to the United States nine years ago. She made the move to try to give her children a better life.
“I didn’t have enough for my kids,” she said. “Sometimes, I didn’t have enough money to buy them shoes and food. I want my kids to go to college.”
Figueroa, who is taking the English Level 2 class, wants to work as a caregiver once she learns English better. She hopes to one day attend Pima Community College credit classes, and said she dreams of opening her own day care center.
Figueroa is one of approximately 6,000 students served each year by PCC Adult Education.
The program began in 1969, as Pima County Adult Education. It became part of PCC in 2000.
Today, PCC offers noncredit programs including Adult Basic Education, English Language Acquisition for Adults, Refugee Education, Family Literacy, Rights and Responsibilities of Citizenship and Project RAISE, Rehabilitative Adult Independent Skills Education.
Courses are offered at three learning centers. PCC is located at 4355 E. Calle Aurora, north of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. El Rio Learning Center is at 1390 W. Speedway Blvd., and El Pueblo Liberty Learning Center is at 101 W. Irvington Road.
Angel Romero attends El Rio, taking English Level 1 to prepare for his citizenship test. He’s been in the United States for three years, and is married to an American citizen.
Not knowing English has kept him from getting his citizenship, Romero said. He hopes to take the test once he completes his class.
Isabel Bunting, also a student at El Rio, speaks English fluently with a Hispanic accent but says she needs to learn how to properly write in English.
“There are a lot of rules to spelling that I’m learning here,” she said.
Each center offers multiple levels of classes in mathematics, reading/writing and English language acquisition for adults. Classes typically meet face-to-face two days per week.
Antonietta Cook, an immigrant from Cuba, said her teacher is good but sometimes she does not understand. However, it doesn’t stop the teacher from getting the message across.
“The teacher uses her hands so we will understand,” Cook said. “She uses body language to communicate.”
Cook complained about the “change” that older brains go through over the years, which makes returning to school more difficult.
Marlenis Lopez, also an immigrant from Cuba, agreed.
“It’s harder,” Lopez said. “My brain isn’t fresh like it used to be.”
Each adult education student who talked with the Aztec Press said they liked their teacher and the class. Their only complaint was that some classes are too easy.
Lupita Reyes, an immigrant from Mexico, said she wishes they were a little harder.
“The learning process is slow,” she said. “We learn very little in a single class.”
In an effort to learn English faster, Reyes is taking English Level 2 and Level 3 simultaneously.
“I don’t want to depend on other people,” Reyes said. “If I am going to live in this country, I want to learn English.”
Laurie Kierstead-Joseph, an advanced program manager, said PCC is able to provide classes to almost everybody. During certain times of the year, some classes have waiting lists.
An estimated 100,000 adults in Pima County lack a high school diploma or equivalent, according to 2010-12 data from an American Community Survey collected by the U.S. Census Bureau.
Additionally, about 4 percent of Pima County adults needs English-language instruction.
Lopez, the Cuban immigrant, takes intermediate English as a Second Language classes twice a week, and is trying to find a better job by improving her English.
“I am not in my country anymore, and the language here is English,” Lopez said. “I want to do something better than clean floors.”
Immigrants Adrianna Figueroa, left, and Angel Romero attend noncredit adult education classes at Pima Community College learning centers. (Pablo Espinosa/Aztec Press)