Spanish speakers may hear the following question on any given day, courtesy of Gisella Aitken-Shadle, M.P.A., the director of Adult Education and Literacy at Northeast Iowa Community College (NICC): “¿Podemos ayudarlo a obtener su diploma equivalente a la secundaria y aprender Ingles?”
Translation in English: “Could we help you obtain your high school equivalency diploma and learn English?”
Aitken-Shadle understands how challenging the English language is for non-native speakers, as well as the barriers community members face without a high school diploma. Aitken-Shadle, a native of Peru who emigrated to the United States at age nine, speaks four languages – Spanish, English, French and Italian. She is even learning two more, German and Chinese. However, it is fluency in English that is a key to success in the U.S. and Western business worlds, according to Aitken-Shadle.
“More now than ever before, American culture requires people to understand English and to be proficient in the language. The English language is also the language of business; multiple countries worldwide conduct their business communications in English,” she explained.
The Adult Education and Literacy director completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Dayton (Ohio) where she earned a B.A. degree in international studies with a human rights concentration and a minor in political science. She continued her graduate work at the university, earning a Master of Arts in Public Administration.
Aitken-Shadle credits her team of faculty and staff, many of whom also speak multiple languages, for helping students realize their dreams of a high school equivalency diploma (HSED), a college degree and much brighter futures.
“Our faculty and staff at NICC listen, empower, inspire and believe in each and every student we serve. Many times, our students do not have a cheerleader at home encouraging them. We become their cheerleader and provide this encouragement for our students, even if only for an hour that week in their lives,” she expressed.