In these pages, get to know just a few of the College’s greatest assets: its students. They are the true faces of Donnelly.
When the rest of her family moved to Kansas City eight years prior to her arrival here, Alvarez was unable to join them due to her immigration status. Instead she stayed behind with her grandmother. She knew she wanted to go to college, and thanks to a generous scholarship and five years of hard work, she completed her business administration degree.
As soon as she legally could, her father urged her to join the rest of the family in the States. Reluctantly, Alvarez agreed, knowing she could use her degree to a greater capacity here. The catch? She spoke very little English.
After hearing about Donnelly’s beginner Community English as a Second Language (CESL) and more advanced English for Academic Purposes (EAP) courses, Alvarez enrolled. She quickly passed through CESL, ready for the challenge of EAP. What she found surprised her.
“[EAP] is totally different: more homework, more responsibilities,” she says. “And my family played an important role in that, because they were pushing me. Like, ‘You can do it. Go for it.’”
Amongst the demands of schoolwork, Alvarez was homesick and mourning her stillborn child. She attributes the loss with her decision to stay in the US, where she later gave birth to a healthy daughter, Camila (now 3), whom Alvarez says is “everything” to her.
“The first reason I decided to learn English was because it was so frustrating for me
to not be able to understand what other people say or communicate,” she explains. “I felt stupid.”
Yet her instructors see her as a motivated, hard-working student who raises the bar for her classmates.
“Berly came to us as a near absolute beginner, but as we have learned about her and her personality, she is determined to achieve her goals for herself and her family,” says Assistant Professor Eric Kolkmeier. “I have been so impressed with her persistence in all aspects of life.”
“Her confidence gives others confidence, and her graciousness is a calming influence,” adds Associate Professor and EAP/CESL Director Michelle Overholt.
Since moving to Kansas City and studying English at Donnelly, Alvarez has accomplished a lot. During her third level of ESL classes, she became a US citizen; her husband is a legal resident who plans to pursue ESL courses himself. After translating at an immigration law firm this summer, Alvarez now juggles an entry-level accounting role at a real estate firm with her course load en route to furthering her career in the US.
“It is a challenge, because everybody there speaks English,” she says. “And the things I already know in Spanish, like accounting, I have to learn in English.”
No matter how much she may struggle to complete courses while balancing a job and raising Camila with her husband, Alverez said she stays strong with the support of
“The most important thing is my family: my daughter, my husband,” she notes. “I want in the future that she can see what I did -- how I fight for things that I really want.”
There is no question Alvarez has fought for years to better not only her life, but also those of her husband and daughter. And she credits Donnelly faculty and staff for welcoming her to the College and encouraging her along
“Donnelly has really nice people,” she says. “I feel like family here. When [faculty] see something strange in you, they ask you. They notice that you are different. That’s why I like Donnelly: because you feel like they care about you.”