To say that Sally Romero, a member of the Housing and Residential Services team at MIT's Ashdown House, is proud and grateful to work at the Institute would be an understatement.
Over the last six years, she has made the most of the opportunities offered by MIT and, with her innate drive, changed the course of her life. “I like that I am growing at MIT,” says Romero.
She joined the Institute in 2017, working the night shift cleaning offices in Building W98. Wanting to advance her career, Romero signed up for English for Speakers of Other Languages offered through MIT Human Resources. She met with a tutor once a week to build on the English skills she learned growing up in El Salvador, and later as an exchange student in Illinois while in high school.
“Everyone I worked with to improve my English skills was very nice and responsible. They came to where I was working, which was also very nice. Sometimes I met with a student volunteer and other times it was an MIT employee,” says Romero. “They helped me improve both my writing and speaking skills. I’m very grateful that MIT offers this opportunity. It’s a very big milestone for me because English is hard to learn.”
After three years on the night shift and wanting to work hours that would allow her to spend more time with her family — especially her three young grandchildren — Romero applied for and got a new job in housing, working the day shift. But she didn’t stop there.
The role in housing inspired her to further expand her skill set by attending The Peterson School of Facilities in Westwood, Massachusetts. After four months of night classes, she earned a certificate as a facilities technician. The only woman in her classes, she learned how to fix machinery such as heating and air conditioning motors.
“I studied hard while at the Petersen School because it’s important to know how to fix and clean the machinery found in Ashdown House. The equipment needs to be up to regulation codes. Now, I have more skills to use at work. Although, my family now asks me to fix things around the house, such as the heat during winter,” she says, laughing.
More recently, Romero took advantage of the support offered at MIT for service employees who wish to gain U.S. citizenship. She filled out the necessary paperwork to begin the process with the help of one of her tutors, Prudence Robinson, executive director of the Leventhal Center for Advanced Urbanism and Romero’s English tutor. The two studied for the test together. Again, Romero’s hard work paid off, and she is now proud to call herself a U.S. citizen.
“I like to read about history because it’s important to know and very interesting,” says Romero. “I’m very grateful to Prudence for her help and guidance, and now I have a U.S. passport!”
As beneficial as Romero found these opportunities, staff who manage such programs are enriched by the experience as well. “Working with employees like Sally is so rewarding,” says Nancy Kelly, who works in Human Resources on the ESOL Program for Service Employees. “I admire how they have been able to leave their home countries and adjust to a new culture and language as adults. They are incredibly hard workers and motivate me to do more with my own life.”
Even when Romero is not at work, she is happy to visit campus with her family. She proudly brought both her children and grandchildren to the street fair component of MIT President Sally Kornbluth’s inauguration. “They had a wonderful time. My granddaughter got her face painted and ate a lot of junk food. It was a lot of fun.”
Romero is now preparing to pay it forward. She recently signed up to be a substitute tutor for employees who want to improve their English language skills. “It means so much to me, and I am grateful because I see so many improvements in my life,” she says, happy to give back.