Bushiri Salumu is quick to acknowledge his profound gratitude to the multiple social service and educational programs that have helped him on his journey to U.S. citizenship and gainful employment.
His new life in Charlottesville is even more remarkable considering Salumu’s harrowing life experience, shared last week with participants at the 2020 Adult Education and Literacy Conference in Harrisonburg, co-sponsored by the VCCS:
“At the age of 17, when I was still in high school I lost both my parents and six of my siblings because of the crisis and civil war in Congo. Our house was hit by a bomb. My surviving brother, sister, and I were tortured. We watched our friends executed, but we managed to escape. I had no choice but to seek some form of safety for myself and my younger brother and sister. We walked for 11 months and a thousand-miles until we got to a Zambian refugee camp.”
After four years in the camp, Salumu was granted refugee status and settled in Charlottesville in 2012. He spoke no English.
But, with determination and a lot of help from volunteers and a host of social service and adult educational agencies, Salumu learned English, earned his GED, gained his U.S. citizenship, and embarked on a career in health care.
Salumu received his Certified Nurse Aide training at PVCC. He is now enrolled in classes there that are prerequisites for nursing school. Last summer, after working in housekeeping at the UVA medical center, Salumu was hired as a patient care assistant in the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit.
Co-workers say Salumu shines in the NICU, and – as he explained in a UVA website feature – he now has his sights set on a career in nursing. “When I was young, my main objective was to study medicine, specifically in cardiology. My father was a physician and inspired me. But after working here in the NICU, I love the babies!”
“Bushiri is well loved at UVA and PVCC,” said JoAnna Collins, healthcare program manager at PVCC.
Carol Coffey, director at Thomas Jefferson Adult and Career Education Center at PVCC notes the multiple programs who have helped Salumu, including TJACE, local adult education, PVCC’s workforce training programs, the college’s Network2Work project, and Literacy Volunteers of Charlottesville Albemarle, to name a few. “This has been a true partnership,” said Coffey.
Organizers of the Harrisonburg conference were excited to share Salumu’s success story.
“This conference is an opportunity to think about offering integrated education and training for adult students and to help prepare adults to be successful in programs like FastForward,” said Heidi Silver-Pacuilla, Adult Education Coordinator at Virginia Department of Education.
“Adult education is a great opportunity for career exploration and awareness – to know what is out there before signing up for courses at the community college. Over half of the students served by adult education are English language learners and need a boost to be successful. The vast majority are 25-44 and have dependents. If we can help them with job readiness and careers, that message will spread to their kids as well.”
“I have learned that the United States is a country where dreams can come true,” said Salumu. “It does not matter where you come from or how you look. If you have a dream, you focus on it and you work hard, your dream will come true one day.”
Learn more about adult education here.
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