PROFILE: Students receive needed help from Community Link

Photo by AMANDA CASTRO-CRIST | The Ranger
Community Link Campus

Taking the first step to reach educational goals sometimes is the hardest challenge students face. As time goes by and other responsibilities take priority, many find that the obstacles to reach those goals have become overwhelming.

Community Link is helping two of those students overcome those obstacles.

Though Maria Soira and Alejandra Barajas may not be taking the same classes, they both have a common goal: to gain a better education.

“My dream is going to college to be a nurse or a teacher,” Soira said.

For her, that journey starts with learning English. A native of Mexico, she was brought to Amarillo by her husband seven years ago. Her days start early – she works from 4 a.m. to just before 1 p.m in the cafeteria at Tyson and then heads to English-as-a-second-language classes in the evenings at the center.

She learned about the classes from her sister-in-law and said her husband encouraged her to take the classes to improve her English.

While she was scared in the beginning when people would speak to her, she said was able to get past that fear with the help of Maury Roman-Jordan, director of outreach services.

“She tells me, ‘You need to speak! Don’t be scared,’” Soira said.

Soira said that while she finds reading English easier than speaking it, both skills will help her as she prepares to take her citizenship exam. And she’s happy to spend her free time studying English and learning new things, a luxury she did not have in Mexico. Being the oldest of six sisters meant she had to focus on many responsibilities helping other family members. There was no time for studying.

Barajas faced similar issues. Before she became a mother at 14 years old, she was helping support her parents. After becoming pregnant, she soon found it hard to support a child and dropped out of high school at age 17 to work.

Now, Barajas is taking GED preparation classes and plans to take the exam this year before the test changes in January 2014. And though she faced the additional obstacles of a broken leg and a new pregnancy, she’s not letting that stop her from achieving her goal.

“I want to have a better future and be a better example for my kids,” she said.

Barajas is employed as a cook at El Manantial Restaurant in Amarillo. Coworker Roy Gonzalez said he believes her work toward a GED will help her be more successful.

“I think it’s great for her to get her GED. It will open more doors for her,” Gonzalez said.

While Barajas enjoys cooking and says she would like a career that involves food, she plans to go to Amarillo College after she obtains her GED and says she’s interested in many other fields.

She remembers many times when, as a child in Mexico, she helped her brother, a hair stylist, with customers. She said she still enjoys doing hair, makeup and nails. She also likes to make clothes.

Regardless of what she decides, she knows what’s important to her.

“I want a job where I can spend time with my kids,” she said.

Barajas said most jobs ask for a diploma or GED. When she heard Roman-Jordan speaking about Community Link on Telemundo, she decided to attend GED preparation classes at the center.

While she doesn’t know exactly where her journey will end, for now she’s focusing on all the things she forgot about school that she loves. Unlike in high school, where she always was waiting for Friday and never paid attention to teachers, she now looks forward to school, in part because of the center employees.

“They don’t see color,” she said. “They see a person, and they help everybody.”

Anyone interested in services offered by Community Link can call 806-381-8968 or visit

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