By Wendy Lemlin
Southern States University founder Carmen Gomide has nurtured success by helping foreign students learn English, while at the same time fostering cultural tolerance. When she was 23 years old, Gomide herself came to California from her home in Sao Paulo, Brazil, to study English at UCLA.
“The courses were very expensive, and it gave me the idea to someday open a school where students could affordably learn the language from native speakers, while also receiving an excellent education,” Gomide said.
After UCLA, Gomide returned to Brazil, but in 1987 her position with Xerox Corporation moved her back to the U.S., where her entrepreneurial spirit kicked in. She launched her own company, exporting Xerox equipment to Brazil. Eventually, Gomide married, divorced, and, as a single mother on her own with two very small children, finally realized her dream in 1999 when she opened the International Academy of English in Downtown San Diego.
In 2005, Gomide purchased the small, non-accredited Southern States University in Mission Valley and her dream expanded. Today, through years of focus and overcoming a myriad of challenges, both schools are fully accredited, and at any one time serve about 1,500 students from all over the world on seven campuses.
Southern States University also has campuses in La Jolla, Pacific Beach, and Newport Beach and offers not only English language courses, but also accredited undergraduate and graduate degrees in Information Technology (IT) and Business Administration, and certificate programs in various IT and business and marketing disciplines. The International Academy of English, in San Diego and Las Vegas, provides non-native speakers with quality English language instruction.
Down-to-earth, warm and friendly, Carmen Gomide doesn’t measure her success by the homes she owns in San Diego, Las Vegas, and Brazil, or any of the other material manifestations of her accomplishments.
“My greatest joy,” she said, “comes from being able to interact with students from all over the globe, with diverse religions, lifestyles and cultural backgrounds. This has resulted in giving my children, who are now 24 and 25, as well as myself, a high sense of tolerance and understanding.”
She sees this growth of tolerance in her students, as well.
“I love walking into a class, or even a nearby coffee shop, and witnessing young adults from, say, Saudi Arabia, Japan, India, Brazil and Russia, all engaged in lively conversation, speaking with the universal language of friendship. It’s beautiful to see how they assimilate into each other’s cultures.”
As a foreigner who herself found success in the U.S. through much hard work and determination, she welcomes the opportunity to be an advocate of the “American Dream.”
“I am so proud to positively impact the lives of the students who come here and to show them how great life in this country is. They leave here with a greater appreciation of what this nation is, and bring it back to their respective countries, further spreading tolerance, goodwill, and hopefully, peace.”
—Wendy Lemlin is a San Diego-based freelance writer. Reacher her at firstname.lastname@example.org.