For more than a year, Ana Caro immersed herself in English courses to prepare for this very day. And now, as her eyes circled the room on her first day of classes for her associate degree, she was at a loss for words.

Ana Caro“There were all kinds of young people, all ages,” said Caro, who had successfully completed  English for Academic Purposes, at Broward College, a program that helps prepare non-native speakers, like her, to eventually take degree-level courses. “I was nervous. Not only did I struggle with pronunciations, but I could be a mom to all of my classmates.”

But, she wasn’t. Caro instead was a 50-year-old mother of three and a wife of 28 years to their father, Oscar. Prior to embarking on her second career, Caro worked as an assembly line supervisor at New Wave Surgical, a medical device manufacturer in Pompano Beach. But the company was sold and relocated to Puerto Rico. All employees, including Caro, were let go.

Confused, and unable to find a good-paying job because of her English deficiencies, she cared for her boys during the day and bounced around at night cleaning houses and babysitting while her husband continued working at a pharmaceutical company.

“It was hard,” she said. “We said, ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ and that’s it.”

The couple knew something had to give. If she didn’t learn to speak English, Caro questioned whether she might ever find a good-paying, stable job again. College had always been a goal of hers and with a push from her husband, Caro decided to make the leap. Pushing aside her fears, she visited the admissions office at Broward College and made higher education a priority.

Pushing against the odds

Although a full-time schedule of EAP classes during the day and work at night would not be easy, Caro was accustomed to hard times since immigrating from her native Colombia to the United States with her parents when she was 13 years old.

“We had our dreams,” she said. “But we all struggled with a lot of things because we knew nothing about English.”

Things began to change somewhat when Caro enrolled in the EAP courses at Broward College, but still she had her doubts. Perhaps, her time for an education had passed her by, she thought. After all, she couldn’t keep a conversation in English and struggled to grasp sentence structure.

“I tried to quit,” she said. “I felt I was too old and didn’t want to participate in class because I was afraid people wouldn’t understand me. But my husband was always there to encourage me. He said, “No, no, no. You finish what you started.’”

Caro is determined to see her education through. And her 3.92-grade-point average speaks volumes about her purpose and dedication. After she completes two courses in the summer, she will have earned an associated degree with a concentration in workforce education.

But that’s not all. Caro also plans to pursue at bachelor’s degree at Broward College. Her conviction has inspired her oldest son to return to Broward College and finish the degree work he started, as well.

If you have a basic understanding of English, but struggle with academic-level proficiency, Broward College’s English for Academic Purposes program can prepare for coursework required of a degree. Here’s how.