When Laurien Assis moved from Brazil to Tennessee to become an au pair, she brought something with her — a heart full of lessons from her parents.
“My parents have always been simple people who never had the opportunity or finances to pursue higher education,” she said. “Nevertheless, they sacrificed greatly to excel in their trades and provide a better life for their children. From a young age, we were taught the importance of faith, integrity and a strong work ethic.”
Assis said she knew when she arrived in Tennessee with little English and no knowledge of the culture, she was going to have to lean into those things if she wanted to make it.
“In a time of such anxiety and sacrifice, I learned just how important my God, family and values were to me,” she said. “Looking back, I am proud of the courage I had to overcome these obstacles and how determined I was to improve myself.”
That continued as she practiced her English, cared for her host family’s seven children and pursued a high school diploma. Her Tennessee family’s care for her was “the biggest proof of God’s love for me,” Assis said.
The second biggest was Begin Anew, a Christian Women’s Job Corps site that provides education, mentoring and resources for individuals who need help to overcome the obstacles caused by poverty.
“When I decided to get my high school diploma in the USA, Begin Anew was the program that appealed to me the most,” Assis said. “I was excited to study in a place that shared the same values and religious foundation that I was raised with. While studying at Begin Anew, I was able to improve my English tremendously and make lasting friendships.”
Bridging the gap, providing resources
And now the Academic Scholarship given by the WMU Foundation is helping her pursue a college degree in business administration.
Tracey Gholson, former program director for Begin Anew, said Assis is “an excellent example of how CWJC can bridge the gap and provide the resources and encouragement that one might need to achieve their goals.”
“I am amazed by this young woman from Brazil who has a strong desire to learn, a determination to succeed and a deep faith in God and God’s plan for her life,” said Gholson, who served as one of Assis’ tutors.
Julie Russell, another former Begin Anew program director, said she’s also proud of a second Begin Anew graduate — Margareth Caballero, who is this year’s Faye Dove Scholarship recipient.
“She was a joy to work with, and she was determined,” Russell said.
Caballero said Begin Anew has impacted her life in many ways, but the biggest was giving her the opportunity to earn a high school diploma online.
“It was a blessing to be able to do all my classes online, as I was able to work full-time and take care of my daughter,” she said.
Russell said Caballero is dedicated, as she earned her high school diploma in less than a year and completely virtually.
“She has big dreams and the dedication to go along with them,” Russell said, noting that every Monday, Caballero attended Bible study via Zoom with her daughter in her lap, and that was a step along her journey of figuring out what God wanted her to do with her life.
Caballero’s desire is to use the funds from the scholarship to help with cosmetology school, which will help her have a more flexible schedule as she works and cares for her two children.
She said she’s so glad she found Begin Anew.
“To this day they keep providing me with support and resources to make my life easier,” Caballero said. “I have always believed in God and that He has a purpose for me, but Begin Anew made me believe in people again. I had lost faith in people, and it was hard for me to trust that there were still good people out there.”
Russell and the others at Begin Anew “gave me hope again,” Caballero said.