The story of Giana Salomon

Submitted by Hillary Gardner, director, Center for Immigrant Education and Training and the New York City Welcome Back Center, LaGuardia Community College, Long Island City, New York, USA

The New York City Welcome Back Center at LaGuardia Community College is proud to nominate Giana Salomon as an exemplary student and model success story. Giana’s dedication to her chosen profession of nursing is an inspiration, but for years Giana was turned away from helping others due to her status as a nonnative speaker. Nevertheless, Giana persisted in her educational and professional goals and now works as a registered nurse for the New York City public school system. 

Giana came to the U.S. after an earthquake devastated her home country of Haiti in 2010. She and her husband took the difficult decision to leave their professional jobs. In Haiti, Giana had worked as an emergency room nurse for seven years, but she found it hard to transfer her training and experience to the U.S.

“As an immigrant, I didn’t know that the steps taken to work as a professional like you used to be would be so difficult," Giana writes. "Even though I spoke basic English, and went back to school to get my certification as a nursing assistant, certification in phlebotomy, and basic skills in ECG, I was unable to find a job. Everywhere they asked for experience from the U.S.”

Giana took a job as a home health aide to earn money while continuing to study English. After ten months, she began working as a nursing assistant, where she was able to use some of her skills but still felt constrained. In 2013, Giana found the New York City Welcome Back Center for immigrant healthcare professionals. There, Giana joined a NY-BEST NCLEX-RN Preparation Course for English Language Learners, taking classes that combined ESOL with NCLEX-RN exam preparation and job readiness coaching.

“I knew once I got accepted into the program I would do whatever it takes to work as nurse in the U.S.," writes Giana. "All I ever wanted was to work as a nurse like I used to in my country. This program was very challenging. 8 months, 4 days a week, English as a big barrier, lots of homework to do at home and in class. Go to work, take care of your family (meaning: cleaning, cooking, doing laundry and more). Magda, our ESOL teacher, taught me not to be afraid to speak up, to express myself.”

In July 2014, Giana passed the NCLEX-RN examination and became a registered nurse eligible to work in the U.S. She crossed the language barrier and learned to see her skills in a new light:

"As a nurse, I realized that what I learned in my country is the same as the nursing program in the U.S. besides the language, some protocols, and some rules.”

She credits faith, determination, and family support for her success.

“Working as a nurse in the U.S. wasn’t an American dream. It was about having a goal, being determined, and taking any opportunity given. I can tell you, it’s difficult to start a new life. But if you want something, you can have it.”