Mosaic Community Essays

—Marcia Cardoso
Cape Verdean
Pawtucket, Rhode Island

My Extraordinary Life: Growing up in Pawtucket

The Public’s Radio’s podcast on immigration, Mosaic, has a series of community essays. This one is called “My Extraordinary Life: Living in Pawtucket” by Marcia Cardoso. She writes about her childhood experiences as a Cape Verdean immigrant.

 My roots as a Cape Verdean-American living in Pawtucket, have greatly influenced the person I am today. Growing up, I did not always fit in with the crowd. Small in stature, shy I struggled to navigate through the early childhood life cycles that I thought every growing child experienced.

My mother moved to America alone. It would be years later that me and my siblings would make the same journey… I arrived with the baggage of abandonment, and a history of childhood sexual abuse. 

When I turned five years old, I was allowed to attend kindergarten at M. Virginia Cunningham Elementary School. I certainly was not ready for the transition, which triggered anxiety and my abandonment issues. I had to interact with everyone in the classroom. Well, guess what? I did the opposite. I shied away from everyone. And I was okay with that. But, I was not okay with being pressured to learn English. I could not understand my teacher and visa versa. 

 It wasn’t until I entered the ESL Program, in 2nd-grade that I started to be more open to making friends, because the majority of the class spoke Creole. And the ESL teachers did a wonderful job recognizing my learning style. 

By the end of 5th grade, I had to get evaluated to see if I could transfer into mainstream classes at Samuel Slater Middle School. I didn’t perform well and meet expectations, and was transferred back to the ESL class. 

My guidance counselor, Mr. Roy Alves spent so much time, talking about low self-esteem. Mr. Alves would remind me, as he was suffering from early onset MS, we can not always look at the negative parts of life. 

Besides the positive pep talks, the Pawtucket Library helped me escape from the reality of my life.

As I entered Charles E. Shea high school, I was excited to start fresh. Unfortunately, that was not the case, and, during my high school years, I was teased even more, which resulted in me bullying others. And at home, life was even harder. Mental illness and abuse were typically not spoken of. The integrity of the family was top priority. 

Before finishing up high school, I joined a local church, near downtown Pawtucket. It saved my life from turning for the worse. I also started volunteering. I was making more positive strides, and that same year I became an  American citizen. 

When I turned eighteen, I finally felt like a free bird! I found a great job working as a Human Resource Specialist at Fleet National Bank and  attended Community College of RI, but I dropped out. It just was not my time yet, and I was resolved to stay positive. 

Between therapy and working on being a good nurturing mother to my sweet girl; I learned how to become more self-loving and have a better relationship with my family.

It sparked a desire inside my heart to become a certified home health aide. And while caring for the elderly community, I also took a position as certified teacher assistant.

Being a small-statured Cape Verdean I still deal with discrimination. But at the age of forty, I have found ways to get around the judgments; because I am no longer a victim of my circumstances. I want to imprint these same traits in Pawtucket’s younger generation of students.

Today, I am thrilled to be a student at College Unbound in Providence, Rhode Island. The tools I am acquiring in this learning experience are increasing my leadership skills

 After receiving my bachelor’s degree I will proceed to obtain my teacher certification. And as a future multilingual special educator, I will utilize my personal history and skills to bring mor

e diversity  and understanding to the classroom. 


To learn more about Mosaic’s community essays and submit your own essay, visit

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