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Thursday, May 25, 2023

‘They See Things in Us We Cannot See Ourselves’ El Centro Alum Manny Paul on How His Teachers Changed his Life

“It’s not about how long you are a student at El Centro,” said Manny Paul, an El Centro alum who graduated in 2014. “You could be there for only a week and feel the benefits of the teachers and the community your entire life.”

Manny speaks from his firsthand experience. Having moved from Haiti to Boston in the summer of 2013 with the intention of continuing his career as a journalist, Manny quickly realized he needed to become fluent in English in order to fulfill his dreams in the United States. He reached out to Catholic Charities Boston’s El Centro program in Jamaica Plain.

“My English was not good enough at the time and they told me they would put me on their waiting list, but I misunderstood and showed up ready for class the following Monday,” said Manny, with a chuckle.

Instead of turning him away, El Centro Director Marianna Geraskina saw the miscommunication and Manny’s eagerness to learn as a serendipitous opportunity and promptly welcomed him into the current class.

“I did not miss a single class. I woke up excited to go every morning. Sometimes, class ended at one and nobody wanted to leave,” said Manny.

Less than six months later, Manny graduated from El Centro’s Level Five class, qualifying for the ESOL college level course at Bunker Hill Community College.

“I wanted to do everything I could to work toward my degree. I read in English. I watched T.V. in English. I listened to the news in English,” said Manny.

Upon Marianna’s recommendation, Manny set his mind to pursuing a degree in finance.

“Marianna and all of the El Centro staff see things in us that we often cannot always see ourselves,” said Manny.

Manny went on to earn his bachelor’s degree in finance from Northeastern University. During his sophomore year at Northeastern, Manny was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of cancer that had spread through his head and neck.

“I thought I was going to die,” he said. “I thought, ‘If I’m going to die, I want to get my degree before I do,’ and so I continued taking classes and doing my assignments in the hospital while receiving chemotherapy and radiation.”

By the grace of God, and an incredible team of doctors, Manny has now been healthy and in remission for several years.

The journey gave him a newfound gratitude for life and the realization that when it comes to pursuing dreams, there is no time to waste. Manny poured his energy and knowledge of business into building a media platform that he had originally begun building while living in Haiti, the Caribbean Television Network, that covers current affairs and sheds light on the immigrant experience.

Today, the Caribbean Television Network has expanded to include 40 staff writers and reporters who live all over the globe. Alongside managing the organization, helping to interview sources and craft stories, Manny is completing a finance and marketing program at Harvard University that will help him to continue growing the business.

Even still, when Manny encounters a challenge, whether it be academic, personal or business-related, he said his first instinct is to reach out to his beloved teacher, Marianna.

Just recently, he asked her to proofread a 40-page business contact for him, noting that she always knows the right thing to say.

“With Marianna, there is no right or wrong time to call,” he said. “If you reach out to her, she will be there for you.”

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