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Elvis dos Santos

Elvis dos Santos excelled in high school in Cape Verde, but coming to America meant he’d have to learn to speak English before he could pursue higher education and his dream of becoming a doctor.

“I was afraid to talk if people couldn’t understand,” Elvis said.

He and his widowed mother left Cape Verde and moved to Fall River in 2017 to be near Elvis’ brother and to start a new life in America.

But, his native language of Portuguese Creole meant he couldn’t start taking college classes until he learned to speak English. He’d also need to learn to read and write in the new language.

“If you don’t know how to read in English, you don’t know how to write,” he said.

Elvis took advantage of Bristol Community College’s English as a Second Language (ESL) program, where he spent two semesters learning the language and working a full-time job to help his mom.

“I was afraid to talk, but I figured out I had to talk in order to learn,” Elvis said.

Just as he was a good student in Cape Verde, Elvis excelled in learning the English language, while making lasting friendships in the program.

“The ESL program gave me the courage to speak English,” Elvis said. “I am so thankful. Today, I am not afraid anymore.”

Once he could speak, read and write in English, Elvis enrolled in credit courses at Bristol, with a heavy concentration in math and science.

“I could understand in my regular classes,” Elvis said. “If I needed something, I had help.”

In 2021, Elvis graduated from Bristol with an associate degree in liberal arts, math and science transfer. He is now enrolled at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth where he is studying chemistry and is on his path to medical school.

“The ESL program gave me the courage to speak English. I am so thankful. Today, I am not afraid anymore.”

“I’m going to be a pediatrician,” Elvis said.

When he’s not in school, Elvis works part time. His dream, in addition to becoming a doctor, is to one day buy his mom a house.

“I’m going to work and save and buy a house,” Elvis said. “I am grateful.”

Learn more about Bristol's ESL programs.