Meet Mariya, an Open Door Learning Center Student

December 2023

Meet Mariya, a former Open Door Learning Center student.

Update to the story: We are happy to share that Mariya passed her citizenship test on October 30 after taking citizenship classes through Open Door Learning Center. Congratulations Mariya!

Mariya takes a selfie with teacher Jessica

Undeniably, we all have things we lean on to inspire us. Some call this our love language. What lights a spark for you? For Literacy Minnesota’s Open Door participant, Mariya, it is friends and food.

When Mariya landed at our Open Door Learning Center in St. Paul as a new immigrant from Turkey, she had left all she called home behind. She struggled with that loss. At Open Door, Mariya found her footing and some friends along the way. Mariya is testimony to the impact of your support. Her resolve, partnered with your gift, creates a bridge between learning and opportunity.

In addition to citizenship classes, Open Door teachers helped Mariya find a path to use her education degree from Turkey. She began preparing for the test to become a classroom instructional assistant. When she passed, they had to celebrate. Only delectables from her homeland could mark a milestone this big, so teachers and friends gathered for a celebration. With the love of her family’s culinary traditions, Mariya prepared a feast!  Try her Turkish rice; the recipe is included below.

Today Mariya is employed with Expo Elementary in St. Paul, working with 4- and 5-year-olds. In her words, “They come here to enjoy life, and we are learning from them.” Mariya’s connection to her students is evident as she explains, with tenderness, her daily interactions with them.

Looking ahead, Mariya’s goal is to become an elementary school teacher. With your help, we can partner with more students like Mariya to realize their dreams. When you fill your life with friends and food, good things happen. Ask Mariya!

Mariya sits in the preschool classroom where she acts as a paraprofessional teacher assistant

As we approach the end of the year, we hope you’ll consider making a donation to Literacy Minnesota to ensure the life-changing work we do continues. Your gift can put children in preschool while their parents are learning English, create job opportunities for those completing digital learning classes and support free webinars for literacy volunteers around the country.

Join us in this journey of personal empowerment and purpose. Can we count on your increased gift this year?

Together, we can create even more stories of friends, growth and hope in the coming year.



Recipe for Turkish Rice

Recipe card for Turkish Rice


2 cups jasmine or basmati rice

3 tablespoons sunflower oil            

2 tablespoons butter

1/3 cup vermicelli pasta

2½ cups chicken broth



1. Cover the bottom of a deep pan with oil and butter.

2. After the pan is hot, break the pasta into small pieces and add to the pan.

3. Stir until the pasta is golden brown.

4. Add rice to the pasta and cook on low heat for 3-4 minutes while stirring.

5. Add chicken broth then turn up the heat and bring to a full boil.

6. Once it is boiling, immediately turn the heat to low and put the lid on the pan.

7. Simmer on low for 12 minutes or until all of the broth is absorbed.

8. Remove pot from the heat and let it stand for 5 minutes with the lid on. Then enjoy!