Briya student Maria Elena Van Maren came in first place in the ESL category of the DC Adult Education and Family Literacy Week essay contest. Another Briya student, Mayra Chavez, came in second in the category.
In their essays, the students responded to a prompt about barriers they face and overcome as adult learners.
As Van Maren wrote, barriers to getting her education started early: at age 11, she left school in her native Colombia to help her single mother provide for their family by cleaning houses. In her essay, she explained that she still faces many obstacles today, including balancing working, caring for her children and studying at Briya.
“Their positivity in the face of challenges is inspirational for all our adult learners, and it highlights the need for more funding for high-quality adult education programs like Briya across the city.”
Van Maren was recognized for her winning essay at an event organized by the DC Adult Education and Family Literacy Coalition, where she received a prize. Van Maren and adult learners from other DC programs also participated in a panel about the issues they face.
As part of the panel, Van Maren shared her dreams for the future.
“I have many, many goals,” she said. “I want my kids to be proud of me. I want to become a leader in my community. I want to work in international relations so I can help my country, Colombia.”
“I love to help people, and how to be able to help people is with my education,” she said.