In the early 1980s, Mi Young left Korea for the United States with her mother and two brothers. She and her family came to Providence, Rhode Island, where they began to work, learn, and live. A gifted piano player, Mi Young could not speak English well at this point in her life and felt that her lack of language skills might preclude her from success in another discipline. She chose to attend college for music. “In college my language was music. I could perform in front of people but I couldn’t speak easily to the audience,” says Mi Young.
After graduating and working as a piano instructor, Mi Young joined her husband’s dry cleaning business, where she spent over two decades honing her customer service skills and practicing English with customers. Between working in the business in McLean, Virginia, raising children, and all of the other commitments of daily life, Mi Young simply didn’t have time to study English. “Every day in life is very busy with the business, we didn’t have time to do extra things,” she says. In 2017, after 25 years, she and her husband left the dry cleaning business and decided to pursue new careers.
For Mi Young, learning English was the first step to finding a new job. Leaving the dry cleaning business was scary, as “we weren’t sure where to go, as we had been in the business for so many years.” That’s when Mi Young joined LCNV’s Destination Workforce® “English for Work” class at the Korean Community Service Center, and quickly learned the basic English skills for a successful job search in the US – from writing a resume to performing in an interview. “When I started [with English for Work] at KCSC, I practiced interviewing, writing a resume, and even using Microsoft Word! I had never used Word before, but LCNV helped me to learn,” says Mi Young.
Mi Young’s next step was to join NVFS’ Training Futures program, which helps underemployed or unemployed workers prepare for a new career through classes and real-world experience. LCNV considers programs like Training Futures as a next step opportunity for English learners graduating from its beginning-level courses. Seeing this pathway at work through Mi Young is a testament to years of strategic collaboration with LCNV’s many local adult education partners to build a path for beginning English learners to advance.
Built into the comprehensive Training Futures program is a real world experience. Local employers host a Training Futures intern for three weeks, giving them practical office and workplace experience. As she had already been a student with LCNV, Mi Young was a natural fit to join the LCNV team for three weeks where she assisted with answering phones, greeting visitors, and general administrative functions. After interning with LCNV, Mi Young stated that “my favorite part is, as a beginner in office culture, I got to work with documents and computers. I learned a lot! Everything was so important to me to learn. Seeing how much happens each day was so [informative].”
Reflecting on her experiences, Mi Young stated “I was in the same business for over 20 years and was too busy with life and never pushed myself out of my boundaries to learn about American culture, or learn English better. When I started class here at LCNV, it began to wake me up, it made me curious, it made me want to be involved in the community…everyday routines can help you achieve your goal, and you’ll get there. It will open you up to new experiences. After Training Futures, I want my career to bring value to the community. I’d like to connect the Korean community to opportunities like what I had. I want to be the connector.”
Thank you, Mi Young for inspiring all of us with your passion for learning!