Plymouth Harbor Employee Gains Citizenship, New Dreams to Pursue

Plymouth Harbor employee Lucy Guzman on the day she became a U.S. citizen.

“The perfect day is going to bed with a dream and waking up with a purpose.” — A. J. McLean

For Lucy Guzman, an employee of CHHSM member Plymouth Harbor — a continuing care community for older adults in Sarasota, Fla. — the McLean quote is a daily mantra. Every time she achieves one goal, she dreams of a new one to pursue.

Originally from Peru, Guzman fulfilled her first dream 10 years to the day after arriving in the United States, green card in hand — she became a U.S. citizen Aug. 13, 2018. Now she’s working towards her next goal: reuniting her family.

Guzman and her youngest son, who was then 14, immigrated in 2008. (He will apply for citizenship next year, she says.) But Guzman had to leave her elder son, who was already 21, behind in Peru.

“My heart was broken,” she says. “Half of me was here, but the other half was there.”

Still, Guzman held on to her dreams. “When you decide to make big changes, you do it because you know you can give more to your kids, your grandkids,” she says. “It’s hard being apart, but I want to be the great-great grandmother who brought my family to America!”

Now that Guzman is a citizen, she can start the process by applying for her eldest son — now 32 with a wife and child — and his family to move to the United States. She says it may take up to eight years, but eventually the family will be reunited.

“Dreams are based on faith,” she says, “but when you set goals, you work for them.”

After arriving in the United States, Guzman enrolled in an English for Speakers of Other Language program. For seven months, she attended classes in the mornings and worked in cleaning services in the afternoons. Then she studied for and earned her Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) license. More recently, she has earned phlebotomy and massage therapy licenses.

Lucy Guzman on the job at Plymouth Harbor. Photo by Herb Booth, Booth Studio, Inc.

Guzman says the support she’s received from Plymouth Harbor has helped her succeed. Though she began working at Plymouth Harbor as an environmental aide, she told her interviewer that she really wanted a CNA position. Following her 90-day evaluation, she was offered an evening CNA shift, and seized the opportunity.

In 2010, Guzman began working as a full-time CNA and part-time massage therapist, sometimes putting in 12-hour days. She enjoys working at Plymouth Harbor, she says, because “it has everything. It is a family, and you can feel it.”

The Plymouth Harbor Foundation — the philanthropic fundraising and stewardship arm of the community — also helped Guzman, granting her a $2,000 scholarship to help pay for her massage therapy classes. All of the training “was a challenge,” Guzman says, “but this country provides you with the aid you need to start your career.”

In addition to her job, Guzman also has fulfilled her dream of owning a home. In 2012, she saw a Habitat for Humanity ad and applied for a house. One year and 300 volunteer hours later, she closed on her home.

“That’s when I thought to myself, ‘I think this country wants me to be here,’” Guzman says.

But she also realizes the weight on her shoulders that comes with citizenship. “Now I have rights, I have responsibilities, I have privilege,” she says.

And the dream of sitting in her living room, enjoying her grandchildren and great-grandchildren at play.

Plymouth Harbor on Sarasota Bay, founded in 1966 by UCC minister the Rev. John Whitney MacNeil, is a not-for-profit Life Plan Community offering customized independent living residences, home care, assisted living, memory care and skilled nursing and rehabilitation therapy services.

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