Mabel Arnold

LAUSD/DACE - Harbor Occupational Center

Nominated in 2023


Mabel’s life in the United States began ten years ago. She came to the United States with her luggage full of dreams and expectations. She knew that the language issue was going to be a challenge for her. When she arrived in this country, she began to realize that only by learning English would she be able to achieve her goals.

When she arrived in the United States, her vocabulary was limited to a few colors and numbers. She felt that her lack of English skills was going to be a major limitation for her. The first place she confronted this reality was at the doctor's office. The receptionist asked her many questions in English that she did not know how to answer. She felt frustrated, embarrassed, and irritated with herself for not being able to understand and answer the receptionist’s questions.

The second time she felt this way was when she applied for a job. She remembers reading the questions and not understanding any of them. She felt very frustrated. She thought to herself, "If only I knew what the questions meant or if I knew what they were asking me, I could answer correctly." She had the experience and the desire to work, but she didn't understand what she was being asked! It was very disappointing for her to realize that this was why she wasn't getting hired.

The third time where not knowing English affected her life was when her son was diagnosed with ADHD and autism. She needed to meet with doctors, psychologists, teachers, and therapists to discuss her son's special condition, request appropriate services for him, and meet his special needs. All of this left her feeling confused and overwhelmed.

Knowing this, she analyzed her family situation, in particular her son's situation, and realized that the only way she could help him was if she studied English to contribute to his overall development. Therefore, in August 2021, in the midst of her emotional chaos due to her son's diagnosis, and with the love and deepest desire to help him, she decided to enroll at Harbor Occupational Center (“HOC”) in San Pedro to learn English.

She felt privileged to take her first ESL class. Her first teacher patiently taught and corrected many of her grammatical errors. Her other teachers masterfully ironed out the rough edges of her language. To her teachers, in particular Mr. Michael Ochoa, she extends her deep gratitude for their love of teaching English as a Second Language and their patience and dedication to the foreign community. She extends her gratitude to the entire amazing team behind the scenes at HOC.

Now, she no longer needs to ask for a translator to help her express her wishes and concerns to her child's doctors and therapists. With the English skills she now possesses, she can request the appropriate therapies and special services for her child. She can now have conversations and discussions with teachers and the school principal about the special education her son deserves.

Learning English has been one of the best decisions of her life. She completed ESL Level 6 this year. Because she can now communicate successfully in English, she was recently hired by a large company. She is working in home health care where she helps older adults. Ten years ago, she never imagined this would happen. Mabel says “Learning to communicate in English and achieving your dreams is possible! Yes, we can!”

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