Immigrant Stories: Nicolas Aguirre

Published by Program Manager on

Immigrant Stories: Nicolas Aguirre

Nicolas Aguirre shared his story with Carolina Kane, a BIIN intern in the summer of 2021, who wrote this profile.

Originally from Guerrera, Mexico, Nicolas Aguirre grew up in a small town. Things were difficult for him and his family, as their hometown had poor infrastructure, limited opportunities for a formal education, and no electricity until the 1980s. So when an uncle who was living in Texas reached out, Nicolas decided to follow and made it to Houston in 1995. The transition to life in the U.S. was challenging for Nicolas, but he was determined to make a better life for himself. Shortly after moving to Texas, he made the city of Bryan his home, where he worked and later had three children. For 25 years he worked early mornings at Shipley Do-Nuts, starting his days at 3:30AM to prepare for the breakfast rush.

His home in Bryan was not too far from the BIIN office.  Therefore, when Nicolas heard about the English classes they were offering, he decided to give it a chance. He described how great it felt to learn from the teachers and volunteers, such as long-time lead teachers, Susan Dennis and Jake Mason. The relaxed pace of these classes allowed him to have earnest conversations with the volunteers, who were always helpful when showing Nicolas new things.

Nicolas has been a student with BIIN since 2018, making him one of the first and most long-standing students at the BIIN Conversational English classes. He began attending the in-person classes to improve his English and help him prepare to get his GED. While there is an option to get your GED in Spanish, Nicolas was motivated to learn English well enough to take, and pass, the exam in English. The classes BIIN provides have been a huge help, for they have given Nicolas the tools he needs to learn and practice English.

Nicolas (far left) appreciates the relaxed, accepting atmosphere that volunteer teacher Susan Dennis creates when she leads English classes at BIIN.

2020 was a unique year for everyone, but it marked a turning point for Nicolas who, after living in Bryan for about 25 years, decided to move to Tyler, Texas. He loved Bryan and the community he found through BIIN, but once his youngest child had finished high school, Nicolas felt freer to make changes to his own work life.  In Tyler, he found a job in construction.  This not only pays better but allows him a more predictable work schedule, and means no more 3:30 AM wake up calls, something Nicolas really appreciates.

One of the positive consequences of the global pandemic, in Nicolas’s view, was the transition to online learning that BIIN made. This allowed students who are not in the Bryan/College Station area (such as him) to continue to participate in the English classes. While it is more challenging online to have the one-on-one conversations that Nicolas was used to having at in-person classes, he is happy to be able to continue to attend BIIN classes and to maintain friendships he has developed over the last few years. While this pandemic has altered the plans of many people, Nicolas is grateful for the shift to virtual classes that BIIN made, for this has allowed him to continue to actively participate in the classes and in the community formed around them.

Nicolas appreciates the fact that online classes enable him to continue to work on his English in the congenial atmosphere created by volunteer teachers like Jake Mason (above) and Zoë Schneider (below). Having native English speaking volunteers and interns, as well as lively and engaged peers, to talk with and learn from adds to the sense of community.