I know you have heard the saying it only takes one seed…
Sometimes, we feel if we plant many seeds, but only one grows, then it was worth our time, patience, care and effort. The CFLC plants many seeds, and those seeds are monitored and cared for until they flourish, but what happens after they flourish? Oh, please do tell!
My husband Jean-Pierre was that one little seed. He moved from Santiago, Chile to Wilmington in 2006. He was 26 years old, raised in a Spanish-speaking household and attended a French school, but did not know any English. Actually, JP had failed English in elementary school, but here he was, moving to the United States as an adult, with no knowledge of the language.
When JP was in Chile, he was a successful personal trainer managing a fitness facility. He was competent, educated and intelligent. However, when JP came to the United States, he felt incompetent, uneducated and unintelligent. His employment opportunities were difficult because he was unable to communicate. He was depressed and discouraged, so he sought for help. He found free English classes at the CFLC, which he attended during the day, while he worked as a bus boy a night- a job that did not require him to speak.
After taking English classes for several months, JP was able to start working in gyms once again, but he was told he needed to shadow other employees and work unpaid until he improved his English. Even though he had the experience and the skillset, without knowing English, he felt he was being demoted for being less competent. The language barrier became a dream barrier.
JP remained consistent with his English classes at the CFLC so that he could work with clients again, giving him his career back, but in the United States. The little seed planted at the CFLC had grown, with a confidence that grew over the next five years to where he could live out the American dream. With the confidence he had gained from his English classes, JP started RipXFit Fitness Studio in 2013, where he had gone from a “nobody” to an entrepreneur, as a bilingual personal trainer.
As a spouse of someone who was able to flourish in life because of the Cape Fear Literacy Council, I am here to tell the story from my perspective. Why? Because my husband’s story changed my story, and one day it will change our children’s’ stories, so yes, it is an important story to tell!
My husband spoke at the CFLC’s luncheon in June 2018. JP said it best when he said- “I was a nobody until I learned English. In Chile, I was somebody and I had a future. When I came here, it was like my whole life was starting over, and it couldn’t start over without knowing the language.”
In our house, we never forget where we started, and JP will never forget who helped him.
“Relearning how to talk wasn’t an easy task to do at age 26, and I took the challenge with the help of the CFLC. With their help and guidance, I was able to keep pursuing my dreams. The CFLC also allowed me to communicate better with my wife and friends as I became a citizen in my new home of the USA. I am forever grateful for them!”
Jean-Pierre Saintard Valiente, former CFLC student from 2006
After seeing JP share his story, it made me feel lucky. I personally felt the ripple effect of The Cape Fear Literacy Council’s adult education, which brought me to join the Board in January 2020. I currently serve on the media and communications committee where I use my creativity, organizational skills and marketing skills towards spreading awareness and the mission of the CFLC.
Adult education is not only life-changing, but it is generation changing. The impact ripples, echoes and expands, while it reaches new seedlings and allows them to grow, while touching the lives of family members, friends, work environments and the community. The most important seed is the first one planted, because when it grows, it pollinates, and when it pollinates, it changes the lives of those around it, both younger and older, both inside the home and outside the home, forever.
Danielle Saintard Valiente is the Owner and Lead Designer of Port City Design Group. Danielle collaborates with residential and commercial clients in new construction, remodels and project management. Danielle was the recipient of the Wilmington Business Journal’s Women to Watch Awards for the Business Category, The Carousel Center’s Tinman Biggest Heart Award, and she has competed on a state-wide level on behalf of her Toastmasters club. She is currently a Board Member of the Cape Fear Literacy Council where she actively participates on the Fund Development and Marketing Committees.