St. Louis Community College: Taci and family one step closer to realizing their American dream
August 4, 2021
The reasons Eneida Taci and her husband, Misha, chose to immigrate from Albania to the United States nine years ago have been cited for almost as long as the nation has existed. They were looking for a better life with more security for themselves and their children.
They are starting to see their American dream come true.
Eneida Taci completed the dental hygiene program at St. Louis Community College-Forest Park in July and set out to find a position that best suited her family. She doesn’t have a job yet, but she will have some soon. Dental hygienists are in high demand and even recent graduates are earning signing bonuses.
“When I got here I said I was going to do something,” said Taci, who worked with a dentist in his home country. “I came with a plan in mind. I wouldn’t have left Albania to come to America and do nothing.
“I came more for my children because I wanted a better future for them, but I have to help them first. It was for them. I did this for them.”
The Albanian economy experienced a steady decline after the turn of the century, and 10 years after the turn of the millennium, Eneida and Misha Taci believed that one would have to move to a new country to find stability. They set their sights on the United States and both applied for the Diversity Immigrant Visa program, hoping to get a fresh start.
Better known as the “green card lottery,” the program allows 55,000 immigrants, mostly from under-represented ethnic groups, to come to the United States each year. The chances of obtaining a visa waiver between extremely difficult and impossible.
In 2012, the year of immigration for the Tacis, just over three million Europeans applied for the lottery. In total, including dependents, only about 33,000 people got their green card, or about one percent of applicants.
Misha Taci was one of the lucky ones and he was allowed to bring his wife. However, upon leaving Albania, she was seven months pregnant with twins and the couple had to decide what was in the best interests of the growing family.
Despite the medical problems, they chose to make the trip together. Their twins, Nicholas and Paris, were born in Michigan, where the family first settled. Two years later, they moved to St. Louis to be close relatives, and STLCC-Forest Park has become an integral part of the family’s journey.
Eneida and Misha, who had English lessons in Albania but still struggled with the language, took ESL lessons in Forest Park. When the time came for them to continue their education, college was an obvious choice.
“It’s very important because it helps me build my future, that of my family here,” said Eneida. “When I asked where to go, there were a few programs and other schools, but the feedback I received was that the Forest Park program was the best.”
The dental hygiene program is a rigorous curriculum, but Eneida and her class have also had to deal with the impact of the pandemic. A full rotation of clinical hours was lost as they could not see patients after the dental clinic was forced to close for six months before reopening in September. Students were forced to double their hours this summer, taking what is normally a 16-week, nine-week spring clinic course.
The course was scheduled to end in May, but students had to wait until July to complete it. Their degrees will be awarded in August, and then the Missouri Board of Dentistry will process their applications for licensure. Once students receive their dental hygiene licenses, they can begin work.
“The persistence of Eneida and her classmates brought them to the finish line,” said Kim Polk, dental hygiene program director. “There were many delays and disappointments along the way. However, they persevered to successfully complete the program and graduated in August.
“I am incredibly proud of the motivation they have shown to reach this point.”
Eneida said she overcame the challenges in large part thanks to the support of her family. Her parents helped with the twins, and Misha worked to earn money so Eneida could focus on her studies. Now that Eneida enters the workforce, Misha can begin the radiology technology program at STLCC-Forest Park as soon as it fits into the family’s schedule.
And that will bring the Tacis closer to their American dream.
This press release was produced by Saint-Louis Community College. The opinions expressed here are those of the author.