“This is one of the most amazing days I have had since I’ve been in the United States,” writes Wetinee Gaul on her Facebook page the day she attended her citizenship ceremony. “I’m really so happy. All the classes and studying have really paid off. Thank you to all my teachers, family, and friends for the support and encouragement. Finally I became an American citizen! Now I am a proud Thai-American.”
Wetinee credits her mother-in-law Betty Gaul for helping her write that post in “good English.” “I’m still learning,” she says. Her in-laws flew in from Florida to attend Wetinee’s Naturalization Ceremony in Chicago on October 8th.
Wetinee came to La Porte four years ago to marry John Gaul. A mutual friend asked John if he had time to message Wetinee so that she could practice her English. A long-distance relationship ensued online until John visited her in Bangkok, Thailand, where Wetinee was born, lived with her father and brother, and worked as an administrative officer for a bank’s IT department. She has a political science degree in public administration.
“I came to the US on a fiancé visa, and we were married in the La Porte courthouse. Wetinee immediately enrolled in the free English classes offered by READ La Porte County, Inc. She also started to work in hotel housekeeping. “It was hard work,” she recalls, “It was hard to understand people, and for people to understand me. The first year I had no friends to talk to. I was lonely. But my co-workers and my boss tried to help me. I was so happy to have a job and the opportunity to work here.
“Now I have many friends and my teachers say my English is getting better. I have a goal of going to college to learn how to work with children with special needs.” She shared that with READ’s English teacher and tutor Christine Rosario, who helped her apply for an open position with the La Porte Community School Corporation for a special education classroom aide.
Wetinee now works full-time as a special education paraprofessional at La Porte High School. “I am happy working in a job I love! I have fun with the kids. America has many opportunities. Life in the US has taught me many things. My teachers have given me so much time and encouragement. They are givers, not takers. That means a lot to me,” pointing to her heart. “Now I like to give more than get.”
“We are so proud of her,” says Judi Ridley, one of READ’s English as a New Language teachers. Her family here and in Thailand is proud of her, too!
New students are welcome to join READ’s English classes anytime at La Porte High School on Mondays and Wednesdays, from 6:00-7:30 pm. READ’s Citizenship class, which Wetinee and another recently naturalized Thai friend also completed, meets at La Porte library and will begin again soon.
READ is also recruiting volunteers to tutor an adult or child in English, reading, math, or computer literacy. “There is a great need for more tutors to match with several people on our waiting list,” according to Mary Hedge, READ’s director. “There is so much good you can do, so please consider joining us. Go to readlaportecounty.org or call me at 219-325-0875. It can be a gratifying experience for both tutor and student. No teaching experience is necessary. Just some time and heart.”