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Dr. Jose, ALL Student & Instructor

By Amanda Cypriano, Community Engagement Specialist

Imagine going through seven years of extensive schooling, establishing yourself as an accredited cardiologist, practicing medicine for over 30 years and then, one day, you are faced with an ultimatum: choose between your hard-won career and your children’s future. This is the decision that ALL student Dr. Jose Vasquez was forced to make with Venezuela’s political and economic issues at a boiling point.

Until recently, Dr. Jose lived in Caracas, Venezuela with his wife and two sons. In 2016, Jose and his wife decided that their children needed to a receive a better education, agreeing that moving to the United States would give them that opportunity to thrive. Dr. Jose knew that although this change would open doors for his family, it would mean the end of his cardiology career. He wasn’t ready to give it up just yet.

“The process is too long to practice here [in the U.S.] without knowing English,” Dr. Jose explained. 

Thinking that the move was only temporary, Dr. Jose made the difficult decision to stay in Caracas to continue his work. For the next five years, he traveled back and forth between the United States and Venezuela to both work and see his family. Occasionally, he would get the opportunity to travel to different parts of the U.S. when attending the American Congress Convention for Cardiologists, and always left feeling an appreciation for the U.S. 

“It’s a beautiful country, lots of opportunity,” Dr. Jose said. 

Dr. Jose described his time apart from his family as “extremely demanding” and knew a change needed to be made. In 2021, he decided to apply for U.S. residency and make the permanent move to join his family in their new home. 

“It was the best decision, the most important decision of my whole life,” Dr. Jose said. 

Dr. Jose and his wife attempted enrolling in technical colleges but found themselves struggling to read books and write papers, not fully comprehending the words on the page or able to articulate their thoughts in the English language. That’s when a friend referred them to the Adult Literacy League, where they immediately hit the ground running, attending multiple classes per week: citizenship prep, job skills, English conversation and more.

“In this moment, it’s important to learn English, speak better and improve my communication level,” Dr. Jose said. 

After just two short years of being a student at the Adult Literacy League, Dr. Jose gained so much fluency that he is now a volunteer instructor teaching basic English via Zoom on Fridays at 6 p.m. to individuals just like himself: people who are starting over in a new place in pursuit of a better future for themselves and their loved ones. 

“It’s the best journey that I’ve ever had,” Dr. Jose said with a smile. 😊

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