Guadalupe Chavez grew up in a small town outside of Cuernevaca, Mexico. Her father died when she was six, her mother, then solely responsible for her three children, worked two jobs to make ends meet. Although Guadalupe missed several years of education, with the support of her aunt, she returned to school, passed her exams and completed prepa, the pre-college program. Although she wanted to attend a university, her finances were limited. Instead, while working part-time Guadalupe completed secretarial school. She found employment in a travel agency and ultimately came to the United States in 1998, where family members were living.
Although it was possible to earn more money in the United States, life was difficult. She spoke no English and had no home or car. “It was difficult for me in America in a lot of ways,” says Guadalupe. “One of the more difficult things was that if you did not speak English they would pay you less. There was a woman at work. I know she didn't like me and she would always say something about me in English. Once she went and told the boss in English that I was pushing her even though I did not do anything. But he believed her because she spoke English better than me. I cried because I couldn't communicate to them in English what was really happening. I couldn't protect myself. I was frustrated."
Knowing the importance of learning English, Guadalupe was disciplined in teaching herself the language, watching television and listening to the radio in English as tools. Later she enrolled in formal classes at community college. After working in a laundry at night and on weekends, Guadalupe finally got a job in a large company. She started at the lowest level, but looked for every opportunity to progress and finally became a sales representative, using her English and Spanish skills.
In 2004, a friend told her about the C.E.O. Women/ Oakland Adult Education program for entrepreneurship. Guadalupe enrolled in the program in January of 2005 and graduated from the 14-week VESL financial literacy training program and then from the 14-week VESL entrepreneurship training program. Through the classes offered by C.E.O. Women and Oakland Adult Education, Guadalupe perfected her English and developed a business plan.
This year, Guadalupe opened her restaurant, La India Bonita, in Union City, where she serves fresh juices, tortas, tacos, Mexican breakfasts and her specialty, chile rellenos. It was recently featured on a local news station.
Guadalupe feels great about her future. She is proud of her progress and expresses amazement that she has developed enough confidence to speak before a crowd of 200 at a recent C.E.O. Women event. She is a shining example of how Adult Education can effectively collaborate with non-profit organizations to truly affect the life of one person, and contribute to the overall economic fabric of our communities.