Many migrants arrive in the United States with a dream of a better future for their families and themselves. Understanding that they must work for this dream, many migrants face barriers, including language, lack of transportation, and access to education, which can hinder them from achieving their desires. The question they must ask themselves if they truly want to live a better life is, “How can I break down those barriers?”
I’m Nori Maldonado, a Latina immigrant and the Workforce Development Coordinator within Camino’s upward mobility program called Arriba, and today I’m going to share with you a few ways to break down barriers in the Queen City.
Although the official language of the United States is dependent upon the state you are in, English is the most common language spoken by US citizens. Therefore, it is crucial to learn and speak the language. In the City of Charlotte, there are several places where you can learn English at no cost. At Camino, our upward mobility program has partnered with Central Piedmont Community College to offer free English classes for beginners, intermediate, and advanced students.
Overcoming the language barrier is essential to personal growth and is a great way to climb the economic ladder. Every day, we have people come to us who are tired of working in cleaning, restaurants, and warehouses. However, when I ask them about their level of English comprehension, they tell me zero. We alone hold the power to shatter the language barrier. As Latinos with many strengths, it is up to us to break down the barriers. When I tell people to learn English, I don’t mean for an hour a day. The day has 24 hours, and if you want to grow and achieve your dreams, you must do what it takes to learn the language. We have a facility on our campus with free online platforms and videos that can help you with self-education. You can also search for conversation groups on various apps where you can speak regularly with native speakers.
Owning a car is ideal, but buying a car is practically impossible without having credit, proper/legal documentation, or a driver’s license. Many migrants do not own a car, but public transportation is available in many areas of Charlotte. The Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) has more than 70 local, regional, and express bus routes. Operating from 5 a.m.-2 a.m. Monday-Friday, 6 a.m.-1:30 a.m. on Saturdays, and 6:30 a.m.-12 a.m. on Sundays, learning the bus system is a great way to overcome transportation barriers.
We also have a light rail that runs through the city from north to south. Unfortunately, Latino migrants don’t use it because some may consider it unsafe or because the routes do not reach a place near their homes. For example, many migrants are living in areas like Concord, Kannapolis, Huntersville, Mooresville, etc., which are places the public transportation system may not reach.
Without a car and public transportation, paid transportation services like Uber become the service used by many migrants. However, this form of transportation can cost an individual an immense amount of money throughout the week, especially if they have to pay for a ride to and from their destination. Sharing rides with other migrants or community members can help save some money and resources, but this involves carpooling to travel together to places of common interest, which can lead to other difficulties.
To overcome transportation barriers, self-education on how to navigate the bus and light rail system is indispensable. Several organizations, including Camino, can help individuals get bus passes while teaching them how to navigate the bus and light rail system. The city of Charlotte also has its doors open to explain the transportation system to newcomers.
When discussing education, many migrants believe that their diplomas from their home countries are useless. This is a myth that needs to be debunked! Your education and past work experience DOES COUNT. I recommend that you have all your professional university degrees translated and certified by a company belonging to NACES. At Arriba, we provide that service, and it’s a good starting point to assess where you are academically and what needs to be completed to get you to where you want to be.
In short, migrants in the United States can overcome barriers of language, transportation, and education by taking a methodical approach and taking advantage of the resources available in their community. Every dream is possible, and the only limitations we have in achieving our goals are the ones we set for ourselves. Overcoming language, education, and transportation barriers requires determination and patience, but proper resources and community support can make a huge difference. It is important to set realistic goals for yourself, and seeking advice from local organizations such as Camino can be a great way to take your first step toward a brighter future.