Name: Lety McCloud
Class: Heartland Class of 2010
Degree: Associate's in Arts
Interviewer: Colleen Reynolds, Director of Alumni Relations and Outreach
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Colleen: Our latest Alumni Spotlight features a woman who took eight years to get her Associate's degree from Heartland and it is an amazing story of perseverance.
Lety: Hi. My name is Lety McCloud and I am at student at Heartland Community College. I am very happy to be part of this big, big, big family that is growing like a weed and I'm going to graduate in December and I'm going to talk about a little bit of my experience. It was a great experience being a part of this big family, which I am going to miss but it's not the end, it's just another stage in my life.
Colleen: Well let's talk about the journey. You came to the United States 13 years ago, didn't know the language but you obviously wanted an education. You knew that was the key to a better life, so how did your journey to Heartland begin?
Lety: I came to the United States in 1997, and I married an American man. I am originally from Mexico City. In my country I didn't have the opportunity to finish my education, because it's expensive and it's difficult. For that reason, I didn't value education as much as I do now. I was thinking if I finished Junior High and High School I would be okay and my parents were not educated, none of my family was educated. So for us, it was not a big deal. We didn't even have this habit of reading which is expensive in our country. You have to decide sometimes, if you read, can you borrow the books, can you do both things? So it was not a big deal to me. When I came to the United States, I married an American. He is an educated person. He started to show me a different kind of view, how an education can be valuable. He was telling me the first thing I needed to do was learn the language. He had his Spanish-English dictionary in hand every single day to communicate with me. He said, "You have to go to school and I am going to help you. I am going to sign you in and you have to start going to school." I started going to ISU without speaking English, not knowing how to read English, not knowing how to write English. It was a nightmare. It was very, very difficult. I remember in 1998 I had one Psychology class at ISU and it took me nine hours to translate the first page of the chapter! Nine hours to translate word by word and then make sense to me in my head what that page says to me.
Colleen: So you realized at some point, this is not working for me I've got to try something else. What led you to Heartland?
Lety: One of the teachers at ISU from the Sociology department talked to me about Heartland Community College. So I came to Heartland. The lady put me in the testing center to take my exam for math. They put me in front of the computer. I didn't know what to do. I didn't know how to turn it on or how to move the mouse or how to do anything. So I go out of the room and told them I have to reschedule. I talked to my husband and I said, "I don't know how to turn the computer on, I don't know how to move the mouse, I don't know what to do." He taught me how to do it. I came and took the exam. My grade was low so they put me in the very, very, very beginning math class which was very embarrassing. But I was thinking, I can do it. All the time I had a very positive, positive, positive attitude and thinking I could do it and my husband supported me all the time. My two kids at their age when I started, my daughter was still in Junior High and my son was in elementary school, they both were cheering me saying, "You can do it, Mom!" My daughter helped me with math with all the algebra math problems and my homework.
Colleen: So, how did Heartland staff and support services help you along the way?
Lety: I want people to know that Heartland is a great, great school. Great opportunity for anyone who really wants to keep going with their education. My biggest problem was the language barrier, the other one was my schedule because I own a business and being a business owner I was full on my schedule every single time. Heartland was providing me tutors, even on Sundays. So every Sunday, we went to church and I finished church then I was going to the library and I would start doing math waiting for them to open the tutoring center and then I stayed there from open until they closed. When I started, they didn't have a lot of students here at Heartland, so I could be with a tutor all day long if I wanted to. But it was very helpful. Also, if I wanted to meet with them outside of the tutoring center, they would be able to do it for me. They offered great support, great, great support! I don't think I would ever get that kind of support at any other school. Another good thing was that I needed extra time to complete exams because of translation and the language barrier. For me, reading a sentence and then translate a sentence in my head to understand what was the question in the exam, it was very time consuming. Many of the professors were allowing me to take my exams in the testing center, which was a great advantage for me because I didn't have the pressure that I only had an hour to take the exam or see other students finish the exam and being the last student and thinking "Am I going to finish this or not?" So, it was a lot of help. Many of the teachers in the beginning would always allow me to take a dictionary with me to take the exam and the testing center was providing me with the dictionaries so I could take it in the testing center to take my exam and translate some words that I didn't know what they mean.
Colleen: So, there were some good systems in place and your professors were pretty supportive. Was there anybody that stands out who really became more of a mentor to you?
Lety: My math teacher was amazing, but I can talk to you right now about Doug Dowell. He was just more than a mentor. He was just a person that can teach, that can guide you, that show you that you can do it. Don't give up, don't lose your hope and that every single effort, because coming back to school is a lot of effort and a lot of dedication. It's just giving up everything until you finish what you are trying to accomplish. It's worth it. Now I see the rewards from all those things. Now for people that think they have family, they have kids, they have to work full-time, they have no money, they have no time, let me tell you they are wrong. Everything is possible, if you want to make it possible. My husband bought me a digital recorder and he had me ask the teachers if they would allow me to record the class and all of them said yes to me. It helped me. My husband every night would sit down with me and put all those recordings in the computer and then on my iPod. Every single day, driving, working, shopping, being in the house doing my chores, whatever, I was listening to those recordings. Then my husband, who was very supportive, would say, "Sit down with me and read the chapters for me and put it in a recording, the whole chapter." Every morning he would say, "Your chapter is in your iPod, so when you’re driving, when you're working, you can read, you can listen to your whole chapter." It was a lot of work from a lot of people that wanted me to succeed, but they saw my determination, they saw that I wanted to do it, they saw that I was a very hard working person and they were happy to help me. When they were seeing my grades, A's and B's, A's and B's, A's and B's and being a full-time student, being a mother, being a daughter because my mother was living with me, being a wife and being a boss, everyone was saying, "We will help you."
Colleen: How did what you were learning in the classroom help you in your business and then tell us about your business?
Lety: I own a cleaning business which doesn't require me to talk to a lot of people. I was able to listen to the recordings without being interrupted and things like that. But the main thing was that every morning, when I start my work, I would see notes that the owners of the homes leave me and I didn't know how to translate that. I didn't know how to read that stuff and I was always calling my husband and spelling word by word what they say. When I started coming to the school, I started to learn how to read, how to write, I was able to communicate with the customers with their notes saying words like "thank you" and "have a great day" and "thank you for your note." I was able to send them e-mails which in the beginning I didn't know what an e-mail was and I didn't know how to type. I was able to communicate with them over the phone and now at this time of my life after almost eight years of going to school and getting to this point - technology, now I can text like crazy. I can text super-fast with no mistakes when I am doing this. I can send letters, quotes. I can be in meetings and can understand everything the speaker says and I can go to a conference and understand what everyone is saying. When people ask me, "Would you like to stand up and talk about your business?" I can freely do it with no fear. I can see that people understand what I say versus in the beginning I didn’t even know how to speak the language. I can make my business even grow bigger, because now I can communicate with my accountant. I can know where we stand on. I can understand the payroll. I can understand my schedule. I can understand how to manage the people. I can understand everything others can understand. I have been reading business books, that makes me amazing when I remember it would take me nine hours to translate one page! It's amazing. It's an open door. It's an open eye. Education I can now see is a big value.
Colleen: There is a ceremony in May, will you attend the graduation ceremony and how will you feel if you do?
Lety: I'm going to be there and I am going to the chunkiest, happiest Mexican on Earth! I'm telling you, it's just an amazing, amazing feeling. Even last night, I was laying down in bed and I am looking at the ceiling fan and I am looking at the clock and it's nine o’clock and I am in bed! I didn't have the pressure of, "I have to study for a final, I have to read or I have to go to the library." It's a great feeling and all the people that know me, they are going to be at that graduation, all the people that helped me and trust me, there was a lot. They are going to be there.
Colleen: Lety McCloud, your story is inspirational. Thanks for sharing it with us.
Lety: Oh it was my pleasure and I really, really, really, really hope people understand that we are so lucky that Bloomington-Normal has this great, great school right here in front of us.
Colleen: We have some great events coming up, including Heartland Night at the Prairie Thunder Hockey game Friday, February 11th with proceeds benefiting student scholarships and our Pizza with a Pro - it’s a chance for current students to network with alumni who are in more than a dozen different professions. That’s Thursday, February 17th. To learn about more great events and benefits, join the Heartland Alumni Association by clicking on the ONLINE FORM on the front page of the alumni website. Thanks for listening. I'm Colleen Reynolds.