New Haven Adult School
Nominated in 2018
Osman Nejat was the tenth child born to a middle class family in Kabul, Afghanistan. He learned German in high school and at the Goethe Institute where language was his favorite subject. After graduating from high school he started Polytechnic University where he had to study Russian. Life under the communist regime was not easy and in the middle of his first year of university he decided to leave Afghanistanl. In 1984 he joined the anti-communist group called "Mujahiddens" or freedom fighters. With their help and support he managed to escape to Pakistan.
After a year living in Pakistan, Osman came to the United States and settled in Union City, California. At first, life in the United States was very difficult, much more than he had expected but he knew it was even harder in Afghanistan. Language was his biggest problem, he couldn't speak English and no one spoke Farsi or German. In 1985, a week after he arrived in the United States, he started classes at New Haven Adult School. He attended a morning multi-level ESL class. He was amazed at the diversity of the class. For the first time in his life he was a student with people from China, Russia, Spain and Japan. He was very enthusiastic and tried to communicate with everyone. Mary Frendo was his teacher and the assistant principal. He remembers the day Ms. Frendo pulled him to the side and placed him in a higher level. She encouraged him to speak in class, she was very patient and a good listener. Within a few months he became an active student at New Haven Adult School. He was asked to translate for the newcomers. He walked two miles a day to attend ESL classes. New Haven Adult School gave him the opportunity to continue his education, a family goal. Since language was his favorite subject and his need to communicate was very important, Osman learned English quickly.
Osman met a wonderful gentleman named Dennis Putman, who worked at Ohlone Junior College and was a Vietnam veteran. Mr. Putman encouraged him to go to college and helped him apply for financial aid and other necessary enrollment processes. He advised Osman of the appropriate English classes to take. English 161, 162 and 163 were designed for ESL students at Ohlone College. The whole day he was busy studying English. Another employee at Ohlone College. Joan Putnam, also encouraged him to continue his education. He was assigned a tutor, Debra from Trinidad, who helped him with reading, speaking and writing English. He transferred to Chabot Junior College where he earned his AA degree.
Because of his eagerness for education and his desire for learning, Osman enrolled at California State University, Hayward. Continuing his education was a challenge because Osman was married, had a baby and a full time job. The PACE Program, Program For Adult Continuing Education, was established for full time working adults and was a perfect fit for Osman. He attended school at night and worked full time at Papillon Restaurant. Because of this program he was able to earn a BA degree in Liberal Studies with a minor in Human Development while supporting his family.
Osman's interests in languages lead him to the TESOL Program at Cal State. He earned his TESOL certificate and is 18 units from a master's in TESOL. He is now persuing his adult education credential at California State University at San Jose. Adult Education has become his career. In 2002. Osman Nejat was hired as an ESL teacher at the same school where he began as a student. Osman is an excellent, compassionate ESL teacher, presenting lessons that are organized and comprehensible to his students. At break time you'll see him interacting with students in the school, telling his story, encouraging students, and acting as a roll model.
Osman plans to earn his master degree in TESOL and to someday return to Afghanistan to work in the education and the health field.
He is most grateful to the educational system in California that gave him the opportunity to fulfill his family goal of an education.