BEACON Electronic Newsletter Fall 2018


Come learn to dance Salsa and help BEACON students!

    Saturday, October 13th, 2018
9 to midnight, first hour is a Salsa lesson
El Rey Tolteca Restaurant, 8412 Sudley Rd., Manassas
$15/person purchase online or at the door.
Can’t make it? Donate here.

Meet Mohamed

Mohamed carries with him a remarkable life story, but like most of those who attend BEACON for Adult Literacy’s language and citizenship classes, he also exhibits a bright spirit of perseverance that has seen him through some tough battles, both literally and figuratively. A native of Sudan and a compulsory soldier in its military, he emigrated to the U.S. in 2012, bringing his wife and children.

Sudan has significant conflict, poverty, government oppression, and corruption. Over 1.5 million lives have been lost in the civil wars that have gone on since 1955. The Sudanese government maintains brutal control of the news, social media, and phones.

“I can’t forget that date,” says Mohamed, in recalling his arrival. “It was my big dream to come (to America); it was a big life change. I was so happy, our family was so happy. I think I am very lucky.”

Mohamed knew when he made the decision that no matter how expensive, he would follow the appropriate immigration channels and apply for his green card. All told, the steps to bring him and his family to the U.S. cost more than $4,000.

Mohamed attended English classes three times a week. In time, he approached his instructor, Fran, a BEACON volunteer and retired schoolteacher, asking her to tutor him in preparation for taking the citizenship test. Fran relays that she and Mohamed met nearly every Saturday for six or seven months, developing a strong friendship in which they realized how very much they had in common, despite their life and religious differences. Fran is proud to share that Mohamed took his citizenship test this year and passed with flying colors. (See Fran’s volunteer video below.)

Mohamed holds a degree in accounting from his native country. Through hard work and dedication, he has built a growing career at the airport, beginning as a shuttle bus fueling attendant, then as an assistant mechanic, and now as a full mechanic. He hopes to become a lead mechanic.

Living and working in America has been an incredible experience for Mohamed. He loves so many things about this country, but if you ask his favorite thing, he will say it is simply the freedom he feels to travel without restriction, work in any field, and not experience discrimination for his race or religion. He also has a deep appreciation for the Constitution, particularly the ideal of equality and that no one is above the law. In fact, Fran says that this was Mohamed’s favorite question to answer during his practices for the citizenship test. He loved it when she asked, “What is the rule of law?” and he could answer, “No one is above the law.”

One of the things that astonished Mohamed when he came to the U.S. was the kindness of strangers. Once, when he went to the wrong office, the people there helpfully walked him to the correct place-something he says would never have happened to him in his home country. “I guarantee you if you go to an Arab country, no one will smile at you,” Mohamed recalls. “People here smile-and it’s like magic.”

Meet a BEACON business partner 

 “I would encourage any business to consider offering English classes for people who need them. The positives are endless.”

QMT Windchimes in Manassas Park partners with BEACON to provide English classes to their employees. Thanks to its dedicated volunteers and generous donors, BEACON’s classes are very reasonably priced and classes are centrally located in Manassas and Manassas Park, with both daytime and evening options.

Patty Baisden and her husband Jamie pay for any of the people who work at QMT who want to attend English classes through BEACON because they see the incredible positive impact speaking English plays in both the personal lives of their employees and in the life of their community.

“Supporting the whole person rather than just the employee at work is affirming and important,” says Patty.

According to the Baisdens, well over half of their employees in the production area come to QMT without English as their first language.

“We currently have about 100 employees,” says Patty. “We make lots of wind chimes; shipping to all 50 states, Canada, and several other countries.” 

“By supporting their education and celebrating with them when they finish a class, our people in classes, as well as the others at QMT, know we value education, personal advancement, and them personally.” At the end of every semester, QMT recognizes each employee in the program at a special ceremony, with refreshments, a certificate, and a $50 cash bonus.

BEACON Executive Director, Jen Mora Zuñiga, says this partnership is the most successful she has seen during her career. “BEACON has served a total of 29 QMT employees,” she says. “Many of the students continue to take classes semester after semester. The Baisdens are incredibly generous and genuinely care about their employees.”

“Our people who have taken English classes take pride in using their newly learned vocabulary and have increased confidence,” says Patty. “The positives are endless. A parent who can speak English can better help their child in school and communicate with a teacher. An adult who speaks English can better express concerns with his or her doctor.  A person who can read can make better choices at the grocery store, benefitting their family’s health.”

QMT Windchimes manufactures top-quality wind chimes right here in Prince William County. For QMT, “made in America” means exactly what it says. From start to finish, all of their chimes are completely designed, sourced, machined, and assembled in the United States.

“I would encourage any business to consider offering English classes for people who need them,” says Patty.  “The benefits quickly outweigh the financial costs.”

Student spotlight, meet a new citizen

Grace is from Kenya and has lived in the United States since 1996. She came to the U.S. to escape corruption, poverty, and a lack of women’s rights.

Grace found BEACON online and took citizenship classes this spring. On August 27th, she passed the citizenship test and was sworn in September 19th as a new citizen.

Grace says BEACON classes are a safe place for students to learn and she can tell that learning through BEACON’s programs has given her much greater confidence. Now that she is a U.S. citizen, she says that her next goal is to vote! Grace also plans to give back by becoming a BEACON volunteer. She has already offered to assist with the upcoming registrations sessions, when new students will sign up for the winter session.

“I’m so blessed to have found BEACON… I believe that BEACON has helped so many people, not only with citizenship interview, but also with learning English and the American culture, so that we can feel like we have a place here in America and can work toward making a better life for our families,” said Grace.

Meet a BEACON volunteer instructor

 “I had the idea that it would be nice to make the world a better place. After interacting with my students, I came to the conclusion that the world was already a pretty good place.” 

 Watch Fran’s video on our Facebook or here.