One Family’s Path to Lifelong Learning

When you don’t speak the language, or have a job, or understand the lay of the land, how do you navigate the difficult process of moving to a new place and starting a new life? Twenty-four years ago, Sergio Sanchez and his wife, Francisca, emigrated from Veracruz, Mexico to Los Angeles and soon thereafter sought refuge in the Los Angeles Public Library.

 IMLSCity Librarian John F. Szabo and Los Angeles Public Library Patron Sergio Sanchez accept the National Medal for Museum and Library Services from First Lady Michelle Obama.


Francisca first discovered the Library as a place to take their young son, Bryan. Although she herself was not able to read Bryan books in English, her local library had volunteers who would read aloud to him. As their son began to excel with his new language skills, Sergio realized the Library could also help him. “I was working 16 hours a day and went to the Library in my free time. I found a lot of books so I could study English, United States history, and news,” explained Sergio.


The Library laid a crucial foundation for the family’s new life in America and eventually it solidified their future here. “Last year, I saw a sign for a citizenship class at the Library and thought my dream could come true,” said Sergio. “The librarian helped me enroll and I was there every Saturday for three months. I also studied there three times a week because the Library has citizenship books, flashcards, CDs, computers, and other things to help me.”


Sergio then encouraged his wife to use the Citizenship Corners, and a few months later they both passed their tests to become U.S. citizens. He thanks the Los Angeles Public Library for helping them through their citizenship classes. He also credits the Library for fostering his family’s education—in 2002 Francisca got her GED, in 2003 her High School Diploma, and she hopes to soon enroll in college. Sergio, who has worked as a sushi chef, is currently preparing for his GED. Bryan benefited from the tutoring and computer resources at his beloved Wilshire Branch throughout his years of school, and now he is studying chemical engineering at UC Riverside.

Sanchezes Sergio and Francisca Sanchez in Washington D.C. for the National Medal for Museum and Library Services ceremony.


“Through its events and programs, the Library helps us share ideas and work together with our community, and as a result we are able to give back to our community. My son joined the Teen Council, collects books to give to the Library, and still volunteers at the Library when he is home,” Sergio said. In return, Sergio enthusiastically offers his support for the Library. Last summer, he was selected by the Library to represent the community of Los Angeles in a special ceremony in Washington D.C. when the Los Angeles Public Library was awarded the National Medal for Museum and Library Service from First Lady Michelle Obama. “I am so grateful to the Los Angeles Public Library for helping me and my family reach our dreams.”

Learn more about the many programs offered for adult learners at the Los Angeles Public Library.

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