Dreaming big dreams: Education defines family's past successes and future hopes

Nicolas and Sara Flores know what it means to have nothing. Growing up in Tampico, Mexico, they had plenty of it. He went to work as a child after his father walked on out the family. Her family couldn’t even afford to buy her shoes.

Today, the couple’s life looks much different. They have a nice house in Houston. Their kids are well provided-for, well behaved and studying hard. Nicolas says he has everything he daydreamed about as a boy. He and Sara couldn’t have done it without hard work and the ability to see and seize good opportunities.

“What we tell the kids is: ‘Go to school, focus on the school. Try to be the best; don’t just show up and be in the chair, but actually try to be the best,’” Nicolas says. “Because education is going to put you on the next level. If you want to dream big, you dream big. Nobody can stop you from that. All you’ve got to do is discipline and hard work. Don’t think that everything is going to fall out of the sky. You’ve got to go get it. It’s there, but you’ve got to go for it.”

Education is an avenue for Nicolas. It’s helped him progress from a janitor to a communication technician. As he’s taken classes, he’s gained better employment and improved financial stability for his family.

The Buckner Family Hope Center Houston/Aldine has been a source of educational opportunities for Sara. Three years ago she heard about the English as a Second Language classes the Hope Center offers. Nicolas encouraged Sara to take advantage of them – especially since it’s so close to where they live.

“I always encourage her to get better in English because she’s going to have more chances to get a better job when she gets a job,” Nicolas explains.

At first, Sara knew little English. Today, she easily holds conversations. She has started taking GED classes and computer classes at the Hope Center and says she has already seen her new skills benefit the whole family.

Before, when the kids needed homework help they had to wait until Dad came home from work – his English was better than Sara’s. Now that Sara can read and understand English, she helps Francisco, 13, Nicole, 8, and Christopher, 6, with their homework as soon as they get home from school.

“Even the neighbors, they always come to her for help with English,” Nicolas says proudly. And when they come, Sara always encourages them to visit the Family Hope Center and try the classes out for themselves.

The computer skills she has learned have been essential for her progress in the GED class. “[Before,] I knew how to go to the computer and the Internet, and search. That’s it,” she says. “Right now, I know Excel, PowerPoint and Word.” She writes essays and completes class work with Word and has also learned to use the computer for budgeting and paying the bills.

Sara says after she gets her GED certificate, she’d like to go into a two-year career training program to be a paralegal assistant.

“I will feel proud of myself [when I get my GED],” she says. “Because for me it’s not easy. It’s not my first language. It’s my second language. But I’ve worked hard for this.”

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