Graduate of Aurora’s Dominican Literacy Center gives back to community (Aurora Beacon News)

Alison BrzeinskiPress

Aurora resident Silvia Larios wasn’t born in this community — or this country, for that matter — but says she loves giving back to it.

“Giving back” is the mantra of the graduate from the Dominican Literacy Center in Aurora who came to the facility with some language skills in 2010 and has been using her English education to help others since 2014.

“The thing about her is that it’s just so obvious she really believes in giving back to the community,” said Sister Kathleen Ryan, an Aurora nun of the Dominican Order who founded the literacy center. “This is really how she lives. She’s totally committed to giving back.”

Born in Mexico City, Larios said she and her husband tried working there a long time before moving here 20 years ago. Not long after, Larios started cleaning houses for a living, which took a toll on her body, she said.

“As far as English goes, I started learning the language when I was 13 in Mexico, and I love English,” Larios said. “When I came here, I could read and write English, but I couldn’t speak or understand it.”

Larios came to the Dominican Literacy Center, where Ryan said she blossomed.

“She wasn’t what we call a true beginner that knows maybe only 20 words but was more an intermediate that went on to become and remain friends with her tutor, who has since moved away to Tennessee,” Ryan said. “What stands out for me about Silvia was that she made a real commitment each week to come prepared, and she was totally involved in the activities in the center. She always went the extra mile.”

Larios has been tutoring at the center for three years and has also attended classes at Waubonsee Community College, where she received a completion certificate in English as a second language and was made a member of the Adult Education Honor Society.

She also teaches yoga classes to cancer patients at Waterford Place Nursing Home in Aurora, where she was recently honored as an adult education volunteer. Yoga, Larios said, was at first an effort to manage her own pain, which is something she now tries to manage for others.

“I was working for years from 7 in the morning until 8 at night, and I was in pain all the time in my back and arms and hands,” she said. “I went to a doctor, who said I needed therapy and maybe a chiropractor, but the costs were so high. I took some medication and thought about the number of people I know who have said that yoga really helped them.”

Larios said she visited a yoga studio in Naperville that was taught by an Indian teacher who knew only English and spoke no Spanish.

“I took yoga for a year, and it’s really changed my life,” she said.

Kelly Huggins, program development and operations manager for Waterford Place, calls Larios “a needle in a haystack.”

“Silvia started working with us last February, and before that, she was involved in a program with Northwestern that was doing work with yoga and Spanish-speaking breast cancer patients,” Huggins said. “Anyone can teach yoga, but it’s unique with cancer patients in that they have different needs and limitations after surgery — they can’t do yoga as they did before. Instructors have to be trained, and Sylvia has gone beyond in terms of her dedication to her craft. She cares deeply about her clients.”

Aurora resident Manuela Fernandez said she started working with Larios a year ago and that she “is a very good teacher who explains things well.”

“She tries different things and says to do things slowly if we can’t do something right away so we don’t get hurt,” Fernandez said.

Fernandez’s daughter Laura Smith, also from Aurora, has been taking the class along with her mother, who is a cancer survivor and said Larios has helped her clients “move past boundaries.”

“She has used her knowledge to help people do things they didn’t think they could do,” Smith said. “Thanks to Silvia, many people have taken things to another level and are really improving.”

Original Article Found Here
David Sharos is a freelance reporter for The Beacon-News.
Copyright © 2016, Aurora Beacon-News

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