Asuka Thompson moved to the United States when her husband, Joseph, a technical sergeant in the Air Force, was transferred to Pease Air Force Base from Okinawa, Japan.
She was pregnant with their first child when Joseph received orders for a six-month deployment. Asuka found herself virtually alone in a new country — no friends, no family, nothing familiar.
She started attending English classes at the Dover Adult Learning Center.
The school became her center of community. She made friends from New Hampshire — and also from China and Korea and Iran and Congo and Russia. Her English improved, and communicating with her New Hampshire neighbors became easier.
“I couldn’t survive here if I didn’t find this school,” Asuka said.
The Adult Learning Center serves about 1,000 students a year in its core classes — from high school diploma and equivalency classes to English for speakers of other languages, adult literacy, computer skills and career pathways.
One day, late in Asuka’s pregnancy, she arrived for class to find the room full of baby gifts and decorations and a dozen smiling friends. She burst into tears.
Thanksgiving and Christmas came while Joseph was still deployed. Lien Harris, Asuka’s English teacher, invited Asuka to share the holidays with her family.
At Asuka’s first American Thanksgiving, with the table laden with turkey and stuffing and potatoes and gravy, everyone took turns sharing something they were grateful for.
Asuka’s turn came. She was grateful, she said, for meeting such good friends.