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Updated: 3 days ago


-Ana's Immigration Story-





December 2016, Ana Lopez Veliz hugs her mom tightly before embarking on a life changing bus ride. She’s only 18 and has started nursing school in Guatemala, but she has no choice, gang members have been harassing her and her family. She has a long trip ahead, on a bus full of strangers with the same goals and aspirations; to seek safety and freedom in the land of opportunities. Several weeks and many hotel stays later the bus reaches the San Diego border. Ana is taken into custody in California, where she will spend her next 30 days, sleeping on cots in a room full of other women ages 18 to 30. The women are fed frozen burritos slid through the bottom of the door to their cell. Some of them have already been here for months, but they hold hope that one day they can enjoy the freedoms they so deserve.


Ana turns 19 on the very first day she is in custody at the border. There are no birthday presents, no birthday cake but she considers herself lucky. Before Christmas, she has her hearing and is released to her uncle in California where she can celebrate Christmas as a free person! Her sister, Erika joins them and they are united once again for a very short time. After spending Christmas with her uncle in California, Ana is about to reunite with her sister Erika in Florida. They only met once before in their hometown in Guatemala when Erika received her paperwork to travel outside the US. Ana was only 17 years old when she called her older sister in America, to help her escape the gangs that were threatening her life. In January 2017 Ana arrived in Bradenton, Florida, and was also reunited with their sister Delmy. Ana feels safe for the first time in a very long time but it is not easy in a land where you do not speak English or understand the culture. Ana takes the only job she can, working in the kitchen of a restaurant as a food prep worker. It is here that she understands the very importance of learning English in order to better herself and give back to a community that has given her freedom. Erika introduces her to Project Light Language School where she can take affordable English courses. Soon after, Ana decides to move into her own place, she finds herself working two jobs while continuing her English classes, but things quickly become overwhelming as work hours start to overlap with school. It doesn’t seem right that she must now choose between work and English classes but it is a choice she must now make. She starts at a new English school, but it is slow and expensive; however, it fits into her schedule. Ana is determined to not give up!


This is where Ana’s journey with Project Light begins again. Ana was able to secure one job where she was making the same amount of money as her two jobs. Her schedule allows her to return to Project Light Language School and Ana quickly moves up in the language levels. Ana is now in level four classes that she attends in the evening, giving her the space to work around her job’s schedule. She has also started her path towards citizenship and is looking forward to taking our citizenship classes while actively working on her dream to be a nurse.


Ana’s second oldest sister, Delmy has also recently enrolled in Project Light classes, so she can advance her English language proficiency and access more opportunities. Erika continues on her journey to read and write proficiently. Today, all three Veliz sisters take classes at Project Light Language School and they continue to inspire their fellow students, the staff, and all of us at Project Light.







First and foremost we would like to extend our gratitude to all the local small and big businesses that have made cash donations as well as donated goods for our first ever Live Auction Fundraiser.


As a non-profit organization, we have been relying on volunteers and community leaders since 1994 to be able to bring English literacy to thousands of students within Manatee County.


"Having a sense of community unites us. Being a part of a community can make us feel as though we are a part of something greater than ourselves. It can give us opportunities to connect with people, to reach for our goals, and makes us feel safe and secure." (source)


Because of your support we have been able to empower immigrants in our community to find work, start businesses, improve family relationships and find their voice. This, in turn, creates a beneficial "economic ecosystem" in which individuals and businesses can thrive.































As you may already know, we non-for-profit organizations rely immensely on our community and local businesses to be able to continue our work.

Because of these prominent local businesses and their generous donations we are able to continue our commitment to closing the Literacy Gap within Manatee County.


That being said we would like to extend our gratitude to First Southern Bank for making a cash donation as part of our 2021 Silent Auction Fundraiser.




About First Southern Bank


"First Southern Bank has been investing in our communities since 1907. We are 5 branches strong serving Southern Georgia and West Central Florida. We are proud to be a true community bank! Our mission is to serve our communities with a level of service superior to our competition.


Community

First and foremost, we are a community bank. We take pride in giving back to our community in time and resources. When our community is a success - we are successful.

Team

Respect sets the tone of our culture. We believe in the importance of treating each teammate as an individual and treating every moment as one that matters. We believe great teams are built on honesty and integrity, mutual trust, and accountability.


Relationship

Our customers are at the center of everything we do. We form lifelong relationships with our customers based on trust, dependability, and transparency. We believe that long lasting relationships are more valuable than the individual transaction."


Find out more about their services here.