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For Mexican immigrant, education is the way to a better life
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Dulce Fourneau works part time at Project NOW in East Moline and is majoring in accounting at the WIU-Quad Cities Riverfront Campus.
ALEDO -- Dulce Fourneau studies at Western Illinois University in Moline. It's a long way from where she started.

The native of Durango, Mexico, is majoring in accounting at WIU and also works part time at Project NOW in East Moline helping families and children. A graduate of Black Hawk College in Moline, Ms. Fourneau has a 5-year-old son in Aledo, where she lives with her fiance. Life seems to have direction for her, she said.

That wasn't always the case.

Ms. Fourneau married in January 2003 and came to the United States with her husband. She spoke little English. She didn't know how to drive.

She lived in Muscatine. Although the marriage was not what she had hoped for, she said her ex-husband's parents were "like angels."

"They helped me a lot," she said. "I learned to drive in two weeks."

Ms. Fourneau said achieving the American dream for her is a dream for a better life. Upon arriving in America, however, she wasn't so sure what direction her journey would take.

"I thought to myself, 'Oh, my God! What will I do here?'," she said.

She remembers the isolation she felt when she couldn't understand what people were saying. Assimilation proved difficult.

Facing these barriers, she wanted to break out of her shell. For her, it started with a job.

She worked full time as a welder at a plant in Muscatine. She said she had no idea how to weld before she started.

"First day there, I was almost crying," she said. "I wanted to quit. I barely spoke English." But something inside wouldn't let her quit. She gutted it out.

"I say, 'Why not? I'm doing something I've never done in my life,' " Ms. Fourneau said. " 'You know what?'," she told herself. " 'Let's just do it.'

"I was the only girl between eight or nine guys," Ms. Fourneau continued. "When I started, I was making $10 per hour. When I leave the company, I was making like $12 an hour."

While working, she was taking English language classes at Muscatine Community College. Her home life, though, wasn't so good, she said.

She and her husband divorced, and she moved briefly to live with her mother in Chicago. She then came back to the Quad-Cities area in 2006 to attend Black Hawk College.

She hopes to graduate from WIU in 2013.

Ms. Fourneau said she took much of her inspiration and motivation from her grandmother.

"My parents got divorced, and I grew up with Grandma," she said. "She's now 89 years old. She's in Chicago, too. She's the one who always told me, 'You've got to go to school. You've got to go to school. You have your education. They can't take that from you.' "

Ms. Fourneau works hard to achieve her American dream. In October she became a U.S. citizen. She said it gives her a sense of pride. Still, Ms. Fourneau said one of the most difficult things to overcome is others' perceptions.

"Everybody makes generalizations of everybody," she said. "You came from Mexico, you're illegal. You don't speak English, you don't have papers. They will laugh. They will make faces. They make fun of how you talk.

"I just need practice in the pronunciation," she said of her English. "I still have to learn. I have a lot of opportunities.

"A lot of people complain, 'I cannot do this, I cannot do that.'"

But Ms. Fourneau said her family motivates her, and she thinks positively.

Her focus is on thinking, she said, "of the things you can do."

Chasing the dream

Who: Dulce Fourneau, recently naturalized U.S. citizen and student at WIU Riverfront Campus

Quote: "(My grandma) always told me, 'You've got to go to school. You've got to go to school. You have your education. They can't take that from you.' "

Local events heading

  Today is Thursday, Oct. 2, the 275th day of 2014. There are 90 days left in the year.

1864 -- 150 years ago: The ladies have adopted the fashion of wearing representations of insects in the flowers on their bonnets. Some look very natural.
1889 -- 125 years ago: T.F. Cary, former Rock Island alderman, has accepted a position as salesman for a Chicago wallpaper house and plans to move to that city.
1914 -- 100 years ago: Work on the new telephone building on 18th Street between 6th and 7th avenues is progressing rapidly.
1939 -- 75 years ago: Rock Island's new theater at 3rd Avenue and 19th Street will have a name significant of its location. The "Rocket" is scheduled to open Thanksgiving Day.
1964 -- 50 years ago: Two of Rock Island's newest water towers were vandalized last night, including the one at 38th Street and 31st Avenue, where police took five Moline boys into custody about 9 p.m..
1989 -- 25 years ago: Some of us who live in the Quad-Cities take the Mississippi River for granted, or at least we used to. But the river is not taken for granted by our visitors. And most Quad-Citians are realizing the importance of the river to this area as increased emphasis is placed on tourism.

(More History)