Success Stories: Meet Margarita

Margarita is from Russia, and she is a single mother of two children. A few years ago, Margarita faced a daunting decision: make her own way in a country where she did not speak the language or return home to Russia. Despite the difficulties ahead of her, there was no doubt in her mind that she would stay in Arizona with her two young children. She would find a way to thrive.

In Russia, Margarita held a bachelor’s degree in nursing. She had a good job, wonderful friends, and a supportive family. She married an American in Moscow, and they started a family of their own. After one year of marriage, they moved to Phoenix, Arizona and bought a house. “My husband took care of everything, like paying the bills,” Margarita recalls.

Then, the couple filed for divorce. “I had to start life over, on my own, and it was a really hard time,” she says. “I couldn’t go home, even though I had a great job and family there. My babies were here, so I had to find a way.”

Margarita had to learn to be independent, starting with figuring out basics, like how to pay her utility bills and support her family on her own. To keep the family home in the divorce settlement, Margarita had to secure and retain employment for two years. As she accomplished that, she enrolled in an English as a Second Language class at a local community college. She worked hard, and, after two semesters, she took an English proficiency test and passed. This allowed her to register for an English 101 class. “I was shocked! I don’t know how I did it, but I was so happy that I had.”

Live & Learn helped with:

  • Goal setting
  • Individualized education planning
  • Navigating university enrollment
  • Accessing scholarships
  • Advocating with admission’s office

Margarita was just getting started. She continued her college classes, working towards an associate’s degree. She became a United States citizen. She worked two jobs, one as a Mesa Community College Student Success Representative and one as a certified behavioral therapist for autistic children. Margarita knew she needed to advance her career to become financially self-sufficient.

She volunteered at Banner Hospital for six months to see if nursing was still her passion. This experience reminded her of how hard it is to be a nurse. “You see people suffering, and, for me, it just breaks my heart every time.”

A friend pointed out to Margarita that she is a great listener and someone people open up to very easily. Margarita decided to pursue psychology.

In 2020, Margarita completed her Associates Degree, and she was ready to transfer to Arizona State University. Since she had a bachelor’s degree in Russia, Margarita is not eligible for financial aid. “The process seems more complicated in the U.S. Figuring out scholarships and what classes transfer is really difficult,” she reflects.

Live & Learn provided one-on-one help for Margarita as she navigated the enrollment, scholarship, and registration process. “When I had tried to call ASU, I was told things like I would need to have my Russian transcripts re-evaluated, even though I already earned an associate’s degree here. I would get put on hold, and my phone calls would go nowhere. Stephanie got on the phone with me and ASU’s administration to help figure out what I needed to do.” With Stephanie’s help, Margarita is set to begin classes this year.

Four years after making the decision to stay in Arizona and build a life for herself and her children, Margarita is thriving. She has mastered English and become a citizen. She loves her jobs and is excited about furthering her education. Stephanie keeps her focused on her goals and moving forward.

“This is why I want to live in America. It was hard to start over, but I feel like I have choices and can grow. You can build a great life in America, if you want.”