Glenwood Springs senior profile: Graduating high school in a new country |

Glenwood Springs senior profile: Graduating high school in a new country

Darian Armer
Special to the Post Independent

Fatima Landa came to the United States four years ago from Tijuana, Mexico for what she thought would be a few weeks.

“I was really scared and sad. My family, my house, my dog, everything was in Mexico. When they told me, I thought we were coming just for a vacation to visit my family. But a few weeks later I realized we were staying forever.”

Landa came with only a small suitcase and traveled by airplane for the first time in her life. Landa’s dad was the only family member who spoke any English, and what he spoke was very minimal.

“He was able to order something at the store. That was helpful because then we could go eat. My mom and dad pretty much speak Spanish only,” she said.

Landa has two little sisters, who like her, have learned English since coming to Glenwood in 2018. The first class Landa was enrolled in was ELD 1. This spring, she’s graduating from Glenwood Springs High School.

“That was really helpful actually. I was really scared my first day of school, so having people that only spoke Spanish as well made me feel more confident at the school,” Landa said. “I knew that I wasn’t the only person who was struggling with this and learning a new language and moving to a new country.”

Landa’s hard work has paid off, learning English over the course of the last four years, as well as becoming the first member of her family to attend college, which she plans to do next year. She’s received three scholarships to help her attend CMC next year to study business.

“My dad only finished middle school and my mom went to high school, but didn’t finish,” she said. “The hard move paid off and I’m so happy to start this new chapter in my life. My parents are very proud.”

On top of the difficulty of learning a new language, Landa had to do it through a worldwide pandemic.

“It was so difficult with masking,” Landa said. “But with time at home during COVID I started taking some of the free days to practice my English by watching movies in English and listening to music in English.”

Now that Landa is bilingual, she helps others who may struggle with English or Spanish in her classes. She’s in her second year as a teacher’s assistant, helping with freshman and sophomore students in tutorial classes. She tutors students who only speak English and those who only speak Spanish. She also helps in Newcomer’s Math.

“Sometimes it can be hard for the teacher to explain things when students have a question in Spanish, because it’s her second language. I can help them because I know how they feel. I know it’s hard for them,” she said. “Now I get asked for a lot of help to translate.”

She’s given tours to Spanish-speaking parents for eighth grade parent orientation tours. Landa said her family has learned a lot in these past four years.

“My dad knows a lot of English now. He can have a conversation with someone. I’m impressed that he has learned so much in these four years. He isn’t going to school and he had to learn a new language. My sisters and I always teach my parents new words or sentences that can help when people ask them something. My dad is really smart.”

Landa said she’s also learned a valuable lesson since coming to the United States.

“These past four years have taught me that being scared doesn’t have to be an obstacle, and it’s definitely not a reason to not try.”

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