Berta's Story | UMCM Suncoast

Family Literacy & Citizenship Program
Lights the Way

Berta's Story

I remember when I first spoke with one of our citizenship students, Berta.  Berta’s story is very common among our students.  She called with several questions about citizenship class.  She was at work, and when I told her the days and times for class, she went to her supervisor.  She asked her supervisor to call me so that I could tell her the time Berta needed to dedicate to class.  When I spoke with her supervisor, I was happy to find that she wanted to help Berta attain her goals, and that she could accommodate Berta’s participation in class. 

True to her word, Berta’s supervisor changed her schedule around and she started attending classes. Like most of our students, Berta juggled family, work, and school. Even so, she got right to work in our Largo location with James, our Naturalization Navigator, and Andres, our teacher.  Andres worked determinedly with Berta on advancing her verbal and written skills.  James jumped into action advocating for her regarding legal services. Berta hit several road bumps along the way due to circumstances beyond her control, as is usually the case with our students.  She concentrated on studying diligently while communicating her needs to us.  We were with her every step of the way, communicating through all tiers of UMCM staff and reaching out to our partners to get her the best help.  Because we are knowledgeable in our field, we can help the students navigate issues that would otherwise cause huge roadblocks. This is why it is so vital for our program to exist in our community.

I heard through Naturalization Navigator James that Berta had passed her interview and was moving on to her naturalization ceremony. I was so excited for her! I was even more excited when I got a phone call from Berta herself, thanking UMCM for making the program available and thanking the teachers and staff for being with her on the path she chose for her success. Receiving this independent phone call was an indication to me that Berta’s self-confidence had risen greatly. Her words were glowing. Berta let me know that she is currently scheduled for work during class time, but is planning on asking for time off to come back to class to share her story and to celebrate her success. She also had a message that she wanted me to pass on to the other students about our UMCM Suncoast Citizenship Program: “It’s necessary – school, school, school.  No school, no passing”.

This story is shared with us by Eliza Brumbaugh, Director Literacy Services. If you would like to know more about our Family Literacy & Citizenship programs, would like to volunteer or would like to recommend a student to attend our classes, please contact Eliza at

You can help light the way for those working towards citizenship and attaining the American Dream. Donate today and help someone like Berta keep the dream alive.