At Academy of Hope, students are at the center of what we do. Each person is unique and adds to the richness of the Academy of Hope community. Our learners are inspiring and they teach us what it means to be determined, to have drive, and to persevere in the face of extraordinary odds. They all share a common goal - to complete their education and to begin new chapters in their lives. Students are what make our jobs worthwhile.
Like many young people growing up in Ethiopia, one of the poorest countries in the world, Shewan Beyene had to struggle for the basics. But with the encouragement and example of his hard-working mother, his love of science and music, support from Academy of Hope – and a lot of effort on his part – today he finds himself happily employed and a Doctor of Pharmacy.
Despite the fact that he possessed a secondary school diploma from Ethiopia, he decided to come to AoH to strengthen his English and learn about computers, figuring that “anything more will help”. And although he entered with low writing skills, in just four months time – with the support of Marja Hilfiker – Shewan passed the GED exam with high marks.
On obtaining his GED, Shewan entered the University of the District of Columbia for pre-pharmacy studies. He majored in chemistry and, on completion of the course, enrolled in August 2007 at the West Virginia University School of Pharmacy in Morgantown, W.Va.
After four years of study, in May 2011, Shewan graduated Magna Cum Laude from his professional doctoral degree program. Marja Hilfiker and her husband were proud to have been present for this momentous occasion in Shewan’s life, as well as in the life of Academy of Hope! In July 2011 Shewan passed his pharmacy licensing examination. And in August of that year, he was recruited by the Medical Center Health System in Odessa, Texas.
James Gilbert has just completed his first year at Academy of Hope. He chose to return to school in order to boost his reading and writing, and to learn computer skills: “I’m here for more than my GED, I want more beyond just that!” Specifically, he wants the skills needed to start a small-business.
Originally from Jamaica, James had past jobs farming vegetables and roses before moving to DC to rejoin his wife. “I like being in nature and working in nature,” he says, “it’s God’s business!” Now he keeps a small garden at home and is looking to expand.
James, who had not used a computer before coming to AoH, can now be seen daily working with PLATO (an online learning program), which he says has helped him to gain some of the skills he will need as an entrepreneur. He is also looking forward to using the internet to find information that will aid his gardening, (such as maps and weather forecasts).
When asked about the road ahead, James replies, “I am doing this step by step, not all at once.”
Mildred and her 80th birthday party were spotlighted in the summer edition of The Literacy Connection
Staff members interrupted the recent summer term orientation with a cake and candles as they sang "Happy Birthday" to AoH's first-ever octogenarian. When 80-year old Mildred heard her name in the middle of the song, she became overjoyed and her eyes filled with tears.
Originally from North Carolina, Mildred moved to D.C. with her mother in 1930. After finishing third grade, Mildred left her school and her family and began supporting herself. At 16 she decided to return to school but was interrupted by a more important matter, the birth of her first daughter.
In 1965, Mildred married. She and her husband were together until he passed away in 1986. She worked for SIC, a food company that caters to government buildings, and raised her two daughters. Now retired, she loves to read, learn, and cook. She believes that nobody is ever too old to learn.
When asked about her favorite part of Academy of Hope, she replied: "I truly enjoy everything! The staff is nice and the classes are great, and I have learned a lot." She commented to all those in attendance at her surprise birthday party: "Thank you so much for my cake and singing, you will never know what that meant to me!"