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ESL Class Helps U.Va. Employee Enjoy Life in the U.S.

Part of an occasional series highlighting University of Virginia employees who have taken advantage of the adult education benefit.

August 8, 2011 — Idris Hassan does not hide his enjoyment of life in the United States.

Originally from Somalia, Hassan, 27, works as a housekeeper in the University of Virginia's Facilities Management Department. He has spent two years in an English as a Second Language class offered by the Charlottesville Adult Learning Center and paid for by U.Va. Human Resources.

Hassan arrived in Charlottesville on July 10, 2004 as a refugee and worked as a landscaper before coming to U.Va.

His reasons for leaving Somalia were clearly stated in the 15th annual "Voices of Adult Learners" booklet, published in March, which contains stories written by the adult learners in the ESL classes. Hassan wrote, "I came to the U.S.A. because my country has no President. I came to the United States of America for better life. I like U.S.A. because there is no war and it is freedom."

Hassan attributes his enjoyment of life in the States in part to his ESL class; it has helped him communicate with others and adjust to the culture here.

For Hassan, life in the U.S. is stable, and he cherishes the time he has with his wife and two children, a 2-year-old daughter and a 4-month-old son.

Those around him know of Hassan's excellent work attitude and care for his family. "He lets us know about his family, and they always visit when he takes a vacation. Family is very important to him," his supervisor, Wanda Snead, said.

Hassan is an "excellent worker," she said, reflecting the pride that he has in his job. He has no trouble getting along with his co-workers. "When we talk, he always makes me laugh," Snead said.

Hassan has not been back to Somalia since he left. However, he often talks about his culture and customs with his co-workers; for example, as a Muslim, he may not eat pork.

He still takes ESL classes, and is considering pursuing a general equivalency diploma. He has no specific plans for the future except to stay in Charlottesville,enjoy the life and job he has now, and perhaps apply next year for citizenship.

Since 2002, the University has contracted with Charlottesville's Adult Learning Center to deliver GED and ESL classes on Grounds.

— By Julia Wang

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