Robeson Community College

ESL Classes Paved the Way for RCC student Ismael Virgile’s Dreams


Ismael Virgile always dreamed of becoming a nurse, but when she and her family moved to the United States three years ago from Haiti, she wasn’t sure she was going to be able to finish high school, much less reach those goals of going to college and working in healthcare.

“I was in the middle of 12th grade when I left Haiti,” said Ismael. “When I moved here it was so different, I felt like all my dreams was turned down because you know, being in a country where you don’t speak the language and the culture is different, it was kind of hard for me.”

But what Ismael didn’t know at the time was that soon, she would find the answer was looking for, and she would be on the path to success.

 “Someone told me about the program at Robeson,” said Ismael. “They told me that I could learn English here, get my high school diploma, and also get into the nursing program…  I always wanted to be a nurse.”

The program that Ismael is referring to is the College and Career Readiness program. Students can come to Robeson Community College to learn English, complete their GED or high school diploma, or learn essential basic life skills. It also allows students who have been out of school for a while, but have a high school diploma, the ability to enroll to improve their reading, writing and math skills for work or to continue their education. The program also has a component that allows students to earn an additional credential in a career field while completing their high school credential.

 “At that time, I did not speak English and I did not finish high school, so I decided to come to Robeson to continue my education,” said Ismael. “I started in ESL, which is English as a Second Language, later on, I moved to ABE, which is a basic skills program, when I passed that class I moved to adult high school, while in high school I took my CNA class, my Nurse Aide Class, then I graduated from high school and I moved to college.”

Ismael says that when she started in the program, she felt empowered and like she could achieve her dreams, so she kept moving forward one day at a time.

“It took about a year to learn English,” said Ismael. “My sister has also learned English and my Dad is in ESL as well.”

After completing her high school diploma and the Nurse Aide I course, Ismael found work as a CNA at a local nursing home. She has also been accepted in the associate degree nursing program at Robeson Community College and will begin in that program this fall.

“I’m excited,” said Ismael. “Once I finish here, I will move onto a 4-year university to receive my bachelor’s degree.” 

Ismael hasn’t decided which university she would like to transfer to after she completes her studies at RCC, but she is looking forward to the new beginning that awaits her.

She also has a message for anyone, that like her, could not speak English when they arrived to America.

“Keep moving forward. Don’t let language barriers keep you from reaching your goals. If I can do it, you can too. Once you start, keep going…Learning English and getting my high school diploma, and becoming a CNA… it was a great experience. “

If you or someone you know is interested in learning English, gaining basic skills for the workforce, or earning a high school diploma, please contact Eric Mitchell at or (910) 272-3608. The programs available through College and Career Readiness at Robeson Community College are free. That’s right. Free.

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