CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Adeline Kokou is more confident today than she was eight years ago when she arrived in Charlotte from West Africa. At the time she spoke very little English and had no work experience.
Today she's an American citizen, fluently speaks English and has a job that has allowed her to buy a house and car.
"I have more confidence in me now, and I didn't know I could talk to people, stand in front of people, even speak the language that I never spoke before and be comfortable."
She credits her success to the Hospitality and Tourism Program run by Goodwill Industries of the Southern Piedmont. The training prepares clients to work in hotels, restaurants and with caterers.
Kokou says, "I like taking care of people, whether it's other people or my family, I like to cook, serve people-- it just makes me feel happy."
She waits tables at the Renaissance Hotel in the SouthPark area, and also serves as the lead trainer for the staff. The Goodwill program she says was her stepping stone to independence. Her boss agrees.
"It really sets people up for the basic needs of working in the hospitality business, and then we can take it from there," said manager Robert Morgan.
Morgan calls Kokou an American success story.
"I just learned that hard work, if you put your mind to anything you want to do, if you really want it, you achieve it, so it's like nothing is impossible."