Saturday, May 5, 2012, was La Roche College’s 47th Annual Commencement. For graduating senior Yoanki Hernandez Leyva, that day marked an extraordinary milestone along an arduous journey. Not only did he successfully meet all the academic requirements needed to earn him a bachelor of science degree in facility management, but he also successfully broke cultural and language barriers that could have easily prevented him from achieving his goal of earning a college degree in the United States.
In 2006, Yoanki immigrated to this country seeking to improve his life and to help his family inCuba. Shortly after his arrival, he found himself atLa Posada Providencia. While there, Yoanki began the legal process of attaining political asylum and took advantage of the intensive English as a Second Language (ESL) and life-skills education available at the shelter. Current Program DirectorZita Telkamp, CDP volunteered periodically as an ESL tutor when former Program Director Margaret Mertens, CDP took brief respites for meetings or home visits. During each visit, Sister Zita tutored Yoanki, forming a special mentoring relationship between teacher and student that spanned the next six years.
Yoanki excelled in learning English and perfected his communications skills. With incredibly hard work and Sister Zita’s dedicated mentoring, Yoanki enrolled in La Roche College, an institution of higher learning in Pittsburgh, Pa., founded and sponsored by the Sisters of Divine Providence (CDP).
As Yoanki reflects on what his graduation day means to him, he refers to it as a collective triumph, a triumph for him and the friends that God brought into his life.
“I have the deepest appreciation for the Sisters of Divine Providence. That wonderful community of women; their help and support made my dream possible,” exclaims Yoanki. “I am eternally grateful to them and especially to SisterZita Telkamp. She has been the instrument in my life showing God’s Providence in the world. Through God’sProvidence, I am here today.”
Yoanki believes the single most important piece of advice he can give to current clients at La Posada is to learn English.
“Learn the language, you can begin to learn at La Posada. Language is everything,” says Yoanki. “Learn it and then work hard to get an education. In theUnited States, you need an education.”
Yoanki says his journey is not finished. He has set his sights on his next goal – finding a job.
“When God opens the door, it remains open,” he says, remaining positive. “I am proof of that.”