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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, July 31, the 212th day of 2014. There are 153 days left in the year.

1864 -- 150 years ago: A corps of surgeons now occupies the new hospital quarters at the Garrison Hospital on the Rock Island Arsenal. A fence has been installed to enclose the prison hospital.
1889 -- 125 years ago: B. Winter has let a contract to Christ Schreiner for a two story brick building with a double store front on the south side of 3rd Avenue just west of 17th Street. The estimated cost was $4,500.
1914 -- 100 years ago: Germany sent simultaneous ultimatums to Russia and France, demanding that Russia suspend mobilization within 12 hours and demanding that France inform Germany within 18 hours. In the case of war between Germany and Russia, France would remain neutral.
1939 -- 75 years ago: Civil service offices at the post office and the Rock Island Arsenal were swamped as more than 700 youths sought 15 machinist apprenticeships at the Arsenal.
1964 -- 50 years ago: Last night, American Legion Post 246 in Moline figuratively handed over the trousers to a female ex-Marine and petticoat rule began. Olga Swanson, of Moline, was installed as the first woman commander of the post .
1989 -- 25 years ago: The Illinois Quad City Civic Center captured the excitement and interest of a convention of auditorium managers this weekend in Reno, Nev. Bill Adams, civic center authority chairman, said the 10,000-seat arena planned for downtown Moline has caught the eye of construction firms, suppliers, management teams and concession groups.

(More History)