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Life can take people to unexpected places. By Yairi Almonte Suero

Updated: May 9

It was 2002, and a 6-year-old little girl named Lismery moved to the United States from the Dominican Republic with her parents. She did not speak English and was suddenly in a completely different environment. Lismery had to take ESL classes at school and struggled to make friends because she could not communicate well. She went from being outgoing and extroverted to being shy and nervous. To fit in and avoid being labeled loud and extroverted, she learned to tone down her personality; she did not want to be compared to other Dominicans.

Lismery’s journey was beginning, and it would take a few years for her to forge her own path and identity. Now 28, Lismery is a Learning Coach for the Academic Support Center (ASC) at Passaic County Community College (PCCC).

The ASC provides Developmental English and ESL students with academic resources regarding writing, reading comprehension, and study skills. Lismery started working here as a tutor and lab instructor on June 12, 2017.

It took some time for her to build her confidence and embrace her position as a tutor, especially because she was very young and students did not see her as an authority figure.

Professor Amanda Kibler, who has worked with Lismery for a few years, shares, “When I first met Liz, I saw massive potential, but I also saw doubt. I saw a young woman struggling with her abilities, and I saw a young woman trying to hide pieces of herself in order to fit in with the people around her. Yet, there was this power in her that needed to be nurtured and unleashed.”

Lismery continued to work hard to build her confidence and eventually was recommended to be a learning coach for the ASC at PCCC. However, looking back to her high school days, she would have never imagined that she would work in this position today.

In high school, Lismery was an excellent student. Her favorite subjects were English, Social Studies, and Science. She got As and Bs in all her classes except for math. She was constantly reading and reading. Lismery learned to love reading by reading books like The Chronicles of Narnia. She stated, “Books were my friends.”

Since she excelled in writing, her high school English teacher encouraged her to be a teacher. After finishing high school, Lismery had a set plan: she would go to a four-year university and become a high school English teacher, get a master’s degree, and then a doctorate.

She decided to attend William Paterson University because it had an excellent education program, but things did not turn out as expected. The education program at William Paterson was great, but it was also complicated to get into, and Lismery decided to pursue a bachelor’s degree in English instead.

However, by the end of her freshman year, her parents faced economic difficulties and other problems, and she had to transfer to PCCC. At PCCC, she thrived. She worked as an Editor in Chief at the college newspaper and felt ahead of the other students because of her university experience.

She says, “I am glad I took this path,” even though it was not her initial plan. She graduated in May 2017.

In 2019, she returned to William Paterson to finish her bachelor’s degree in English, but this time was different. She liked her professors because they helped her perfect her craft. Her education at PCCC and William Paterson has helped her achieve her goals. She feels proud of where she is now.

Lismery plans to start her master’s degree in higher education at Farleigh Dickenson University this summer. What has she learned from her journey so far? “If you are not sure what you want to do, do not do it just because it is expected of you. Do what you want to do and not worry about their opinions. Your path is not linear; life is going to take you in a different direction."

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