Ana Ortega moved to the Elkhart area nearly 15 years ago. She was 15 years old and didn’t start school when she arrived. Ana began working right away in the recreational vehicle industry, where she’s been employed ever since.
Ana is now the mother of three children ages 11, 9, and 3. She encourages them to work hard in school. Ana’s working hard, too: She is learning English and plans to pursue her high school equivalency (HSE) through Elkhart County’s Horizon Education Alliance.
Horizon Education Alliance (HEA) offers HSE instruction free of charge through its Adult Pathways program. Horizon’s program integrates online learning and provides consistent support and opportunities to build positive relationships with peers and instructors. Through collaboration with libraries, businesses, and community agencies, HEA is able to offer its program at locations across Elkhart County. HEA also provides access to computer labs for online education.
“I don’t want to work all my life in factories,” Ana said of her decision to earn her HSE. “And I want to learn more English for my children. They ask me about words, and sometimes I don’t know. When I take the classes with Amber, I ask her.”
“Amber” is Amber Bressler, one of HEA’s volunteer tutors.
“I tutored in high school as part of the National Honor Society, and I really, really enjoyed it,” Amber said. “It was time to get back into tutoring. I was looking for something I would enjoy that would fit in my schedule. I made a connection with Carol Hemund (HEA’s volunteer coordinator), and the rest is history.”
Ana and Amber have been working together for two years; Ana is Amber’s first student.
“We spend a lot of time on grammar, and some vocabulary,” Amber said. “Right now, we’re starting to do a lot of reading comprehension.”
Ana wants something different for her life. In working with her, Amber feels like she’s making a difference.
“I know that sounds cliché, but I really do,” Amber said. “It’s rewarding to see the growth in Ana, not just from an academic standpoint, but just the confidence. It’s remarkable, from when I first met her. I’m happy to help, too, because I think she’s one of the hardest-working people I know. She works full-time, she has a family, and she’s studying. I think that’s inspiring.
“I’m happy to help people like Ana,” she added. “I think it not only makes the individual stronger but ultimately your community stronger if you have an educated workforce.”