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Every person who chooses to volunteer with Buckner is an important member of our ministries. This month, we are celebrating National Volunteer Month by highlighting some of our wonderful volunteers across the state. 

During the summer of 2009, Griselda Santiago washed dishes in the back of a bustling barbecue restaurant in Pittsburg, Texas. Little did she know a simple question from the restaurant owner would set her on a journey of self-discovery and empowerment.

Born in Mexico, Griselda Santiago journeyed to the United States in 2005, driven by the common immigrant dream of better education and work opportunities. However, her path was not without obstacles. Despite her aspirations to earn a high school equivalency diploma and learn English simultaneously, she found herself confronted with the reality of limited options due to language barriers.

One day, the restaurant owner posed a question that sparked a realization within Griselda: "Are you always going to be here washing dishes?"

This inquiry sent Griselda on a journey to explore her potential beyond her current role.

“I always tell this story to my ESL (English as a second language) students, because I want them to be inspired by it,” she shared. “I felt a little attacked when my boss asked me that question, so my response to him was, ‘Sure! What’s wrong with that?’”

Finding belief in herself to chase her goals

“He told me, ‘There’s nothing wrong with you doing this, but you could also be at the front welcoming our customers,’” she continued. “He knew I could do more than what I was doing there and wanted me to see that, too.”

With the owner's encouragement, she began to expand her skills and English proficiency, transitioning from the back of the restaurant to the front counter, where she greeted customers with a newfound confidence. Driven by her own journey, Griselda became passionate about helping others navigate the challenges of learning English.

After relocating to Longview, Texas, and becoming a mother, she sought out support and discovered the Linda and Kenneth Hall Buckner Family Hope Center®. Enrolling in ESL classes reignited Griselda's passion for learning, and she soon found herself not only completing the program but being invited to return as a teacher.

Passionate to help others learn English and reach their goals

Once an ESL student, now an inspiring ESL teacher

Despite initial insecurities, Griselda embraced her role as an ESL teacher, drawing from her own experiences to inspire and uplift her students. Through her dedication and empathy, she creates a supportive learning environment where students feel empowered to overcome language barriers and pursue their dreams.

At the Family Hope Center, Griselda found not only educational support, but a sense of community and belonging.

“We are a family here,” she said. “We start classes with a devotional. There, we get to hear a message of hope that applies to all of us, even though we may all be facing different situations.”

Griselda's journey is a testament to the transformative power of education and resilience. Through her work, she not only imparts language skills but also instills hope and confidence in her students, showing them that with determination and support, anything is possible.

Creating community for those who are facing similar challenges she once did

For Griselda, teaching goes beyond language instruction; it's about fostering connections and building a community.

"You can see the need people have and the desire to learn the language," she said. "I knew I needed to be a part of this and share what I had learned because I had gone through something similar."

Her unwavering belief in the potential of her students mirrors her own journey of growth and self-discovery. Griselda saw a need, and her story serves as a beacon of inspiration, illuminating the path for others to follow.

Discover how you can help inspire others by volunteering.

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