In this issue of Tribuna, we are pleased to share with you the story of Michelli Anatolio. Born in Brazil, in the small town of Balsamo, Sao Paulo, she saw her life change completely when she moved to the United States with her parents and younger sister 10 years ago.
At that time, Anatolio was 17 years old and when she arrived in the country, she had the feeling that she was inside of a dream. Everything looked familiar because she had as references the movies she had watched as a child – the wooden houses and structures so different from her country of origin, the culture and the four seasons so well-defined.
It all started back in 2006, when Anatolio’s parents came to the United States to get to know the country and try their luck. After just about six months, they decided to return to Brazil because they missed their daughters deeply. The plan was to bring the whole family and stay for a maximum of two years.
Anatolio’s father had worked in public service in Brazil and could take a 24-month leave and return to his job. Nonetheless, time went by and the family decided to stay a little longer because they had become used to the calm life they had in the quiet town of Bethel, CT.
The first years were not easy for Anatolio and her family. “Everything was new, we didn’t know places, how things worked and we did not speak English. My father worked in public service in Brazil; he had a profession. But when he arrived here, he felt he was only another immigrant, and it was hard to assimilate.”
“During the winter, it was complicated to find jobs. My father would remain unemployed for months. We worked hard and always kept our faith strong that everything was going to work out,” said Anatolio.
Little by little, Anatolio and her mother started their own cleaning company. She worked during the day and attended English classes at night. She knew that to fly higher she would have to learn the language.
In 2011, Anatolio was married and moved to New Milford. She continued to clean houses. She shared that her husband was the main influence behind her decision to pursue a college degree. She took the TOEFL test to attend Western Connecticut State University (WCSU) but her score was not high enough. However, that didn’t stop her. She decided to go to Naugatuck Valley Community College (NVCC), which provided her with the foundation she needed to transfer to WCSU.
“Sometimes we don’t understand God’s plan, but to attend NVCC prepared me to face a university and that was the best decision I have made,” explained Anatolio.
Now four months away from graduating in Social Services, among the many lessons Anatolio learned is that you need to work hard to achieve a fair, democratic and equal society for all.
“It makes me very happy to serve the immigrant community in general. I want to support the entire community because when I arrived in this country, I needed help and support. And now, after all I have been through, I think that there is a way to give back for all the good things I received when I came here. Each person can only offer what they have, and I want to offer my best. There is nothing more gratifying than to be able to help a neighbor. I understand the struggles of many immigrants because I have felt them myself.”
For Anatolio, to be able to help people through social services is rewarding. “What I learned throughout those years in school is that social service is not a profession but a calling. You work with people in need every day and that can be exhausting at times if the professional is not skilled to work with the less privileged population. He or she can even fall into depression, and that is why such a career is not for everyone,” she stated.
When asked about her American dream, Anatolio answered firmly: “I came from a remote town, I am about to graduate from an American college, I am working in the social service field, which I love, and I have a wonderful husband who supports and encourages my dreams. I can only thank God because my dream is being fulfilled.”
For Anatolio, the United States can be defined with one word – opportunity. She believes that through fight, courage and perseverance you can achieve your dreams.
“Things happen when you fight with all your strength to make them become reality. If you have a dream or wish for something hard, when you persevere and believe in God’s plan for your life, when there are struggles and faith, you can get anywhere you want.”