Tatiana Leon: A Participant From Colombia

Written by Mireya Gutierrez

Rebirth. That’s the expression that comes up for Tatiana, an immigrant from Colombia, when she describes her journey in the United States. Tatiana moved during the COVID-19 pandemic along with her family. Upon arriving, she soon realized the English she learned during classes in Columbia was nothing like what she found in Philadelphia. The pandemic was a difficult time for Tatiana. There was not much opportunity to not only network for her career, but to connect with others in this new country. By chance, Tatiana discovered an ad on Facebook for Let’s Talk Philly (LTP), an online talking circle started by two past Welcoming Center participants, Yushan Chou & Karen Cevera. Little did she know this Facebook ad would open doors to learning, community, and friendship.

Masks made it difficult to learn a language, so the online calls allowed Tatiana to learn English while at home. LTP gave Tatiana the exact safe space she needed to practice her English, and be okay with making mistakes while doing so. People there were at a similar language level as her, helping her realize she was far from being alone, and that there was a whole world of immigrants in Philadelphia that she could relate to and connect with. Soon after joining LTP, Tatiana was introduced to The Welcoming Center.

Tatiana is certainly no stranger to The Welcoming Center now. She has been through numerous programs, including career-building and ESOL, and was invited to co-facilitate some training sessions. She led four seminars in creating resumes and gaining confidence for immigrants in Philadelphia, something she is, and deserves to be, proud of. Currently, she is a member of the language access working group, swiftly becoming a key part in the group’s goals to make language more accessible within the organization.

She recalls hope taking over almost the exact minute she was introduced to The Welcoming Center. Tatiana not only became a student of a class, but an important member of a

community. She says the support and resources The Welcoming Center provided her are one of the major confidence boosters for her progress in English. It gave her the push to stop being afraid and “just start to talk” she says.

Even though talking to Tatiana was such a gift for us, she continually expressed her gratitude for the interview. She described it as an opportunity. The smile on her face told us she wants to stick around for a long time. Her bright and helpful attitude make us feel included in her community, noting that, “Anything, anytime The Welcoming Center asks for help or support, it is ‘yes.’”

Tatiana continues to nurture her English skills by speaking everyday and memorizing vocabulary, she cheerfully describes. She is still discovering her career options for the future, but while doing so she continues to raise her fifth-grader, listens to music, and of course, leaves space in her schedule, and most importantly, her heart for The Welcoming Center.