2013 ESL Jefferson Award Winner: Peter Clark

Posted at: 05/01/2013 2:01 PM
Updated at: 08/29/2013 12:51 PM
By: Joangel Concepcion

Imagine having to learn a brand new language, new laws and a new culture. It's a difficult reality for immigrants here chasing the American dream but when there is someone there to help, like Penfield native Peter Clark, families who were once lost in translation have now found their way.

Clark says, “I came from a, I would say, a very low class to middle family. So we had a hard time. I always told myself, when I grow up, I'm not going to be in this situation.”

Its a feeling that has stuck with Peter Clark for decades. It has pushed him to dedicate his life to helping others. “It makes me feel good that I've helped someone make it here and make the transition from one country to our country”

Clark has accomplished a lot in his life. He's trained himself to play several musical instruments and during his 35 years working for Kodak, he helped capture one of the first images of the moon and he was even the inventor of the first lithium battery for consumers.

But it’s his efforts-helping five families fulfill the American dream that he says mean the most. “It's tough on those folks when they come over here. People don't realize it but when you don't know the language, and you don't know the customs, it's very hard to fit in.”

Sebahate Tusha fled the war in Kosovo back in 1999. With four kids, no job and no money, Tusha had no where to turn. That is, until she met Clark. “If Peter wasn't here, I probably couldn't do nothing with myself. With the immigration and the financing and everything you know kids, with school and papers and everything. All the time I need something I just call Peter.”

Tusha says Clark has become like a father to her and her children. She says she's never seen such kindness, such selflessness. “To thank one time, two times, it's not enough to appreciate how much he helps me.”

Clark says his main goal is to help the kids succeed in this country and to teach them, they can be whatever they want to be. “Everyone always says the U.S. is a land of good things and opportunity. It really is but you don't get it for free. You have to work for it.”