Student Success Story
In 2019, Eastern Shore Community College student Lovensky Similien was nominated for one of the VCCS Chancellor’s Awards which are presented annually at the Hire Ed conference each December. Lovensky’s nomination was for the category of Student Success Story.
Lovensky was born and raised in Haiti, and could have never guessed his educational path would lead to Eastern Shore Community College in rural Accomack County. Or that he’d benefit from almost every facet of the college’s offerings.
He could have ended up anywhere. His father lives in Brazil. One of his brothers lives in Venezuela. A sister and brother live in France. Two siblings remain in Haiti.
But his mother lives on the Eastern Shore, where she is employed at a poultry-processing plant. In 2016, she wanted Similien to join her and two other siblings in the United States. He moved to the United States while still in high school.
“I didn’t speak any English when I came here,” said Similien, slender and soft-spoken with caring eyes and a quick smile. “It was really hard for me to pronounce words.”
That’s where his educational journey started, as a 19-year-old in ESCC’s Adult Education Program with English as a Second Language classes. He progressed so quickly, the following year he transitioned to the Adult Education high-school equivalency curriculum, commonly called GED classes.
He passed all four sections — math and science on the first try, the others on subsequent attempts, to earn his GED. “He showed a lot of perseverence,” said Amy Shockley, the regional adult education program manager at the college.
Along the way, he expanded his resume, earning a Customer Service and Sales Certificate industry credential through the National Retail Federation. The class was funded through adult education grants.
The customer service credential has been a bonus as Similien applied for and received jobs. He also got his first job because of the college — McDonald’s restaurants had representatives at an on-campus job fair and hired him. His ESL instructor took him to the interview. Today, he works at Wal-Mart, a short drive away from the college campus.
Similien continued his dream of earning his education when he enrolled as a student at Eastern Shore Community College in the spring.
He started slowly at first, and since he wasn’t a full-time student, his classes were funded by the Virginia Rural Horseshoe Initiative, a project to increase education and job-skills opportunities at community colleges in a horseshoe-shaped swath of rural Virginia.
He is now in the middle of a 16-credit schedule that includes classes in English, accounting and information technology.
Those who know him say Similien is a hard worker. “I do my best,” he said.
He credits Barb Rang, a former ESL teacher who now is the FastForward Career Coach at the college, for her help. “She’s a good teacher,” he said.
His dream is to transfer to Old Dominion University and earn an undergraduate degree in information technology.
When he does, he’ll remember the help he had at a small community college that taught him how to succeed in a foreign country.
“They have good teachers,” he said. “I think it’s a good college.”