Help from Valley View Hospital and her surrogate parents
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
When Maria del Carmen Castillo was 16 she was told that school wasn’t an option for her. She was supposed to stay home and help around the house. But Carmen was determined to get an education. When her sister asked her come with her to the United States she didn’t hesitate. Her parents reluctantly gave her permission to go. Here she talks about the people in the United States who have helped her succeed.
Castillo: One of the places that has really supported me in my efforts to learn is Valley View Hospital. They opened their doors to me and have been giving me lots of opportunities. The people there are awesome. I feel like they helped me a lot.
Gallacher: How did they help you?
Castillo: When I first started working there I was a dishwasher in the kitchen. I worked there three days a week. And then, after that, I asked if I could work in the laundry and they gave me a job there. Then I worked nights in housekeeping.
I started moving up. I was looking for more and more opportunities. And they helped me. After housekeeping at night I moved to housekeeping in surgery. From there I wanted to try sterile processing where I would learn how to sterilize surgical instruments. I remember asking the department director for a chance and she said, “Are you sure?” I told her I really wanted to try. She said, “Well, I am going to let you get wet. If you like it you can stay. If you don’t like it you can go back to your old job.”
I really liked the new challenge. For me it was like learning a new language. I had to learn all of the names of all of the instruments. It was hard and some days I would say to myself, “Carmen, what are you doing?” But you know I have always believed that the harder the lesson the more you learn. Because nothing of value is easy, you always have to work for it. If you really want it, you work for it. I have been seeing that in myself and I try to teach my kids that too.
Now I am working one day a week in the hospital pharmacy, learning. I also help when they need me to help translate for other patients. I learn something new every day.
Gallacher: Where did you get that desire to learn?
Castillo: I always had it. When I was growing up in Mexico, I was trying to learn new things. I always wanted to discover more.
One thing that really helped me when I started high school here was the family that took me in. Mr. Brooks and Annie Brooks were teachers in the high school and they taught me so much, a lot of values. They opened their hearts and their home to me. They are like my second parents. Annie Brooks is like my mom. They have a very special place in my heart (crying). They are my angels.
I lived with them for almost two years. When I graduated from high school they were there for me, taking the place of my parents. They taught me to understand more about this country. How things work and how Americans think.
For example, Mr. Brooks taught me that it is OK for men to do dishes. He said it was even OK for them to do laundry. And I really liked that idea (laughing). They always told me the more education you have the easier your life will be.
They took the place of my parents many times. I remember at the end of my senior year there was a graduation ceremony in the auditorium and the school gave us flowers to give to our parents. I was standing on stage looking around. I was missing my parents and wishing that they could be there (crying). And there at the back of the room I saw Annie Brooks. I ran to her and hugged her and thanked her for taking the place of my mom. I will always remember that they were there for me all of the time I was in school.
I can’t wait for them to meet my parents. And that day is getting close. I applied for my parents to come and visit, and I just got word that they have been approved to come. Soon I will be able to introduce my parents to Mr. Brooks and Annie Brooks. That is going to be a very special day.
Immigrant Stories runs every Monday in the Post Independent.
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