Skip to the main content

Grace Penner
Learning English

Time 0:00:42


So then I got this job at a store. And there I got off at nine o’clock, and then I could go home and do my homework. And there were times that I was doing homework until like three o’clock in the morning. Trying to um—read what it said, plus understand, and look for the words in Spanish, so I could translate it into English. Or English into Spanish, and then write your homework that way. That’s how I learned English. I didn’t have an aide here telling me, “This is how you spell this. Or this is how it sounds. It might sound very similar but it means differently.” Yeah, I didn’t have that here.

Grace Penner was born in San Antonio Silva, El Salvador in 1971. In 1981, following the outbreak of the Salvadoran Civil War, Grace’s parents illegally immigrated to the United States of America where they hoped to find safety and better opportunities for their family. Grace and her siblings were left in the care of their grandparents, while their parents worked in the United States and sent money home to El Salvador. One by one, Grace’s siblings joined their parents in Houston, Texas. In 1985, Grace’s mother returned to El Salvador to take Grace and her sister to the United States. Unfortunately, Grace, her mother and her sister were caught by police. A California judge allowed them to remain in the United States after paying a fine.

When Grace’s parents became uncertain if they would be approved for a green card in the United States, they applied to come to Canada as refugees. The family qualified for refugee status due to the danger they would face if they returned to El Salvador. Through the sponsorship of the Mennonite Central Committee and a Mennonite church in Winkler, Manitoba, the family was able to come to Canada in December 1988.

Although Grace was 19 when she arrived in Canada, she was placed in grade 9 due to her level of English. At age 22, she graduated from high school and became a Canadian citizen. Grace is now married with two children and works as a nurse’s aide and therapeutic recreational programmer at a senior’s assisted living facility in Winkler.

Return to the main gallery >