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The Trinity Voice

The student news site of Trinity Preparatory School

The Trinity Voice

The student news site of Trinity Preparatory School

The Trinity Voice

Journeys Across Borders

Three teachers share their immigration stories
Courtesy of Bozena Lawson
Bozena Lawson and her daughter return to for a trip to Warsaw, Poland.

   Moving to a new country is never easy. Whether it be facing obstacles in getting a visa or leaving family and friends behind, the process of immigration can certainly be a challenging one. Despite its difficulties, many people, including science teacher Elmarie Mortimer and world language teachers Gabriela Weaver and Bozena Lawson, immigrated to the United States for greater educational and career opportunities.

   In 2022, 2.6 million people legally immigrated to the US, according to the American Immigration Council. One of these people is science teacher, Elmarie Mortimer. Mortimer and her husband moved to the US in 2002 from South Africa after her husband’s company brought them over on a special skills visa.

    “I was amazed at how friendly the people were and I was blown away by how much volunteering work goes on in the United States,” Mortimer said. 

   Even after receiving the visa and moving to the US, the process wasn’t over. Mortimer had to return to South Africa and renew her visa, this time with her 9-month-old daughter. They arrived at the embassy, waiting in the long line for non-American citizens. Fortunately, since her daughter was a US citizen, they were pulled to the front of the line. 

   “We planned to actually spend the whole morning at the embassy to get the whole paperwork, and I think we spent maybe half an hour in and out and off we went again,” Mortimer said. 

   Five years after receiving their visa, they applied for green cards. This was great news for Mortimer because it meant she no longer had to renew her visa every three years and she could return to work. After having the green card for a couple of years, they took the final step and were sworn in as American citizens and their immigration process was complete. 

   “I think it gave me a better understanding and made me more empathetic to people that want to move to the United States,” Mortimer said. “I think if you live here your whole life, you don’t realize how good it is.” 

   Spanish teacher Gabriela Weaver has a very different story. Weaver moved to the US from Costa Rica at 16 years old when her mother married an American. After applying for the visa and getting approved, Weaver and her mother were able to come to the US. Before heading to New York, Weaver and her mother took a pit stop in Orlando. 

   “The most exciting thing for me was to go to Disney World and see the Cinderella castle,” Weaver said. “That was the time. I will never forget standing in front of it and looking because Cinderella was my favorite movie when I was a child.” 

   Six months later they received the green card. Weaver began attending school in Jamestown, New York, and the family started to adjust. While the transition wasn’t always easy, it still led funny moments especially while trying to learn a new language. When Weaver was in high school, she asked to see a classmate’s sheet but she accidentally mispronounced sheet for a different word with a completely different meaning. 

   “The poor kid almost died,” Weaver said. “He got red like a tomato.”

   Even though coming to the US wasn’t her choice, she worked hard to take full advantage of the opportunity. However, school was challenging, especially since Weaver wasn’t fluent in English yet. She eventually finished high school, settled into the US, and began thinking about her future. 

   “I didn’t think going back was a choice or an option because it would throw away all the work that I have done, so I was very determined to continue to stay here, to go to college and to build a life,” Weaver said.

   Another teacher who immigrated to the US is Latin teacher Bozena Lawson. Lawson, her husband, and her daughter moved to the US from Poland in 2002. After visiting, they decided to apply for long-term residency. While Lawson was already fluent in English when she moved, local accents caused much confusion for a while. 

   “I came to the states and my husband’s family greeted us at the airport and they started speaking English with the very, very, very heavy Southern accent… it took me probably, a few days to three days to kind of adjust and get used to the accent,” Lawson said.

   After six months and a lot of paperwork, Lawson received a green card and work permit. After a couple of years, she became a US citizen. Even after becoming a citizen, she sometimes felt as though she didn’t fit in.

   “People do not always treat me the same. I’ve been here for a while and I work but still, I speak with an accent. So it’s like, it’s like a different feeling, not always, maybe belonging,” Lawson said. 

   While the transition was hard, Lawson continued to build a life here in the US. She said she was very grateful and excited for the new opportunities. Holidays continue to be challenging though, rarely getting to see family. 

   “Regretted? No, no, no, never,” Lawson said. “I miss my family in Poland. I’m very close to them…but I mean, we made the decision and you know, we just kind of live with it.”  

   These teachers’ experiences are not isolated. According to the American Immigration Council, 13.6 percent of US residents are immigrants full of stories to tell. Ask, because you never know what you might learn.

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