Beyond ESL: Upward Scholars students embrace fashion design

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As a child growing up in Mexico, Upward Scholars student Elizabeth relished the time she spent helping her mom repair her siblings’ clothes. Now she’s primed to parley her passion for sewing – and fashion – into a career.

Last semester Elizabeth – having completed all but two of Cañada College’s required ESL classes – enrolled in Cañada’s introductory fashion design class.

While she had no trouble completing the assigned sewing projects -- whipping up three skirts, three pairs of pants, and three vests in one semester -- Elizabeth was stymied by the vocabulary. “I didn’t know easy words like hemneedle, and seam,” Elizabeth recalls. “It was difficult in the theory, but in the practice it was really easy.”



Elizabeth (above) and Blanca (below) model their final projects for their Beginning Clothing Construction class. Photos courtesy of Diana Espinoza-Osuna.

Unlike Elizabeth, Upward Scholars student Blanca came to the United States from El Salvador with extensive sewing expertise. At 16, she started working as a seamstress for a high-end dressmaker; at 20, she quit that job and opened her own tailoring business. Blanca came to the U.S. 20 years ago. In addition to taking classes, raising a family, and working full-time as a cashier, she runs a small seamstress business out of her home and also teaches sewing.

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Blanca is currently enrolled in her second fashion design class. “When the students saw I can sew, they said, ‘You don’t need this class’, but I said, ‘No, I need it. If I am going to have a business, I need to speak to the people.’”

The cost of Elizabeth and Blanca’s book are covered by Upward Scholars. Blanca receives a monthly bus pass from Upward Scholars and Elizabeth has received a laptop. And they both meet with Upward Scholars tutors who, while experts in teaching ESL, have greatly expanded their knowledge of sewing!

Both Elizabeth and Blanca are open for business. If you have clothes that need alterations, or even a design for a bespoke garment, you can contact them here:


Elizabeth, elizabethluque46@gmail.com, (650) 630-1829

Blanca, blanbens@gmail.com, (650) 346-9721

Blanca and her tutor, Kate Hand,during a tutoring session.   Photo courtesy of Peter Hand.

Blanca and her tutor, Kate Hand,during a tutoring session.

Photo courtesy of Peter Hand.

 
Elizabeth and her tutor, Susan Russell, at the 2018 Upward Scholars Tutor/Student Picnic.  Photo courtesy of Mary Bender.

Elizabeth and her tutor, Susan Russell, at the 2018 Upward Scholars Tutor/Student Picnic. Photo courtesy of Mary Bender.

Tania Ventura