From Oaxaca to US – A Heartfelt Story of Success – Elizabet Pacheco Cortes and Mary Ellen Cash

Is time to go to school, mom walks with me the 1.9 miles to Immokalee Middle School

I thought it was a government building with 2 floors and the beautiful red bricks. We go inside, there are a lot of words being said that I cannot comprehend.

There are so many kids, I feel overwhelmed, mom says goodbye and says follow the teacher who will walk you to your classroom.

I remember a tall blond woman approaching, I don’t speak nor understand English how am I going to respond. To my surprise she starts speaking Spanish she introduces herself as Mrs. Cash, my reading teacher and I feel at ease.

I did not know this was the beginning of what would change my life. Mrs. Cash not only was my teacher, but also a mentor and advocate who instilled in me the American Dream.
Had it not been for her support and constant encouragement, I would have been given up and gone back to Mexico or dropped out of school. I kept focus and worked hard, I was determined that my only way out was thru education.

Towards the end of my freshman year my teachers recommended honors’ classes, however due to my ESL designation the school would not approve the change in my schedule. To be exited from the ESL program and to get honors classes, Mrs. Cash wrote a letter and all my teachers in high school wrote letters requesting that the school give me honors classes. My mom had to go and sign a release form saying that it would be her responsibility if I failed, since we were going against the counselor’s recommendation. Even though I had made straight A’s my freshman year, they did not believe.

Had it not been for Mrs. Cash’s intervention I would have never had honors classes, nor been salutatorian of my class, nor been accepted into Dartmouth College.

It was her determination and continuous drive for success that push my potential to such a level that I was accepted to Dartmouth College with a full scholarship.

I graduated in 2006 with an Economics degree and am now a US Citizen of this great country.

The trajectory of my life continues to be shaped by her wisdom to this day and I am thankful to God for bringing her into my life.

It is teachers like her that make a difference in a student’s life, that truly care about the individual and try to understand the circumstances.

There are many kids that want to succeed and all they need is someone to believe. It is my sincere hope that other students get to share in the great blessing it is to have Mrs. Cash in their lives.


Elizabet Pacheco Cortes

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