In her home country of Brazil, Winnie took care of animals big and small as a veterinarian. But when she married an American and moved to the United States in 2015, she could barely string ten words of English together, let alone practice her profession. Oakland Literacy Council, however, gave Winnie a strong start on her new life.
Within a month of her arrival in Oakland County, Winnie was matched with a tutor, who realized Winnie could understand English far better than she could speak it. The tutor created a customized learning plan that focused on grammar and conversational skills. They met weekly at the local library, and the tutor gave her homework.
“My tutor gave me individual attention,” Winnie says. “She knew what I needed to work on most.”
Shy by nature, Winnie says her tutor “was patient and encouraged me in every step that I took.” With the tutor’s help, she became comfortable speaking with merchants, making appointments on the phone, and passing her driver’s license exam.
Eventually, Winnie obtained her “green card,” allowing her to live and work permanently in the United States. After graduating from Oakland Literacy Council’s one-on-one tutoring program, she took English-as-a-Second-Language classes at Oakland Community College. Then she began to work toward her dream of becoming a licensed veterinarian here in the United States.
The first step toward realizing the dream was a position caring for dogs at Leader Dogs for the Blind. From there, Winnie landed a job as a vet technician. Since then, she’s been studying hard for the national board exam─a four-hour written exam that all vet school grads must take─followed by a 3-day practical exam given only to foreign nationals during which they must demonstrate veterinary skills while narrating their steps in English. If she passes, she will receive her license to practice as a veterinarian.
“Everyone who knows me knows my passion for animals, which is why I had decided to go to vet school,” Winnie says. “Since I have moved to the USA, I haven’t been able to work as a licensed veterinarian. Getting my license will help me achieve my career goals and will allow me to do what I have always wanted to do.”