Phoenix College ESL Student Attributes Hard Work and Dedication to Her Success

Thursday, September 16, 2021
Alba's Success Story

(PHOENIX, AZ) – When Alba Penarete registered for ESL classes at Phoenix College in January 2018, she was serious about learning English.  With no prior English instruction, she pushed herself out of her comfort zone and spent hours on the college campus practicing her English speaking skills with native and non-native English speakers.  Alba’s dedication quickly led to success as she found herself being recognized as a leader and mentor in the Phoenix College ESL Program.  

Beginning in Level II ESL, Alba quickly moved through the program, taking advantage of the small, personalized classes and student support services at the college.  Alba not only embraced her learning experience, but she also became active in student clubs and participated in ESL outreach opportunities.  For example, in just a short time, Alba became an ESL Student Success Specialist, which allowed her to gain valuable experience as a teacher’s aide under the direction of the ESL Program Director, Jeff Eldot.  

“It was a wonderful experience, she added.  “Working with Jeff was something that helped me grow as a student and as a person.”

“Alba is a highly accomplished person having worked in business and raised a family in her native Colombia before she emigrated to the US,” said Eldot.  “She is one of the most compassionate students I’ve ever had in the classroom.  And while English did not come easy to her, she worked hard and took advantage of opportunities such as working as an ESL Student Success Specialist, which allowed her to advance her English abilities.  Alba is prime example of the tenacious students we have studying ESL at Phoenix College.”

Alba not only has a strong commitment to her own education, but she also loves to help other ESL students.  She enjoys sharing her story and encouraging other English language learners who want to take the next step in their career.  In just the last year, she accepted a new position at Phoenix College in the International Education Program.  Now as the new Student Service Technician, she works with new and returning ESL students, and she helps them with registration, testing, and financial aid.   

"Alba is a clear example of perseverance,” said Paula Chalarca-Chavez, International Education Program Analyst at Phoenix College.  “She came to Phoenix College with the clear objective of learning English.  Her journey has not been perfect or easy, but she keeps working towards her objective every day.  Not only was she able to finish her ESL program, but now she is pursuing an academic program with the intention to transfer to a university, and that is amazing to me!"

While helping others comes very natural to Alba, this is not something new to her.  She holds a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Bogota, Colombia, and spent years working in the business industry before moving to the United States.  Now, she is pursuing a degree in Strategic Leadership.

In the spirit of helping others, Alba offers her advice to ESL students.  “I want to emphasize that the English language is learned with dedication,” she said.  “It’s not easy, but it is not impossible either.  The only thing that students should have is the desire to learn.”

She encourages ESL students to commit to the following schedule.

“First, on the first day of class, look for a classmate who does not speak the same language because that is the only way people strive to understand what the teachers say, she mentioned.  “Second, organize study time by dedicating at least three hours a day to learning the language.  Third, try to take as many classes in a row that you can: get into a grammar class, then get into a listening and speaking, and then a writing class. This is the best way to learn.” 

Alba recognizes the impact Phoenix College has had on her life. 

“Thanks to Phoenix College, I can communicate and share with more people.  As a result, I feel more sure of myself,” she added. 

The ESL program at Phoenix College offers students one of the most diverse language learning programs in Arizona.  Our ESL students come from more than 100 different countries, speaking 50 different languages.  Additionally, the ESL Program at Phoenix College offers the most variety of classes of any of the 10 colleges in the Maricopa County Community College District from Basic English to Freshman Composition and Research.  Students may enroll in ESL classes now by going to or calling (602) 285-7375.