Personal victories take place daily on the backside of Churchill - WSFA.com: News Weather and Sports for Montgomery, AL.

Personal victories take place daily on the backside of Churchill Downs

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When it comes to talking to horses Jose Arriaga needs few words. When it comes to talking to horses Jose Arriaga needs few words.
Jose Arriaga Jose Arriaga
Backside Learning Center Director Sherry Stanley Backside Learning Center Director Sherry Stanley
Daniel Orantes Daniel Orantes

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - There are stories of success from Churchill Downs that rarely get told. Stories of perseverance and determination can also be found far from the winner's circle on the backside of the track.

When it comes to talking to horses Jose Arriaga needs few words, but for hundreds of workers at Churchill's backside, it's talking to others that's tough part. More than 80 percent of those living on the backside are Spanish.

"My English I think is ok," Arriaga said. "I try to practice every day." 

Not speaking English made Arriaga's tough job even tougher, especially when dealing with his new boss.

"When they talk to me," he explained. "I feel, I feel bad because I don't know what they say," he recalled.

Motivated, Arriaga signed up for English classes at a small building tucked behind the giant screen.

"They have a place where they can come and learn things and interact with people and it's kind of a family environment," Backside Learning Center Director Sherry Stanley said.

The Backside Learning Center offers English classes, a library and a path to citizenship. The place became a life saver for Daniel Orantes.

"You know it's hard," Orantes confessed. "It's hard to learn another language because it's not easy. But I'm trying really, really hard," he said.

He proudly showed us his classroom where he now teaches basic English despite a third grade education.

"I like when I write on the board and I can explain and translate every work," he said.

Orantes pushed himself through classes after caring for his 19-year-old cousin who was left a paraplegic after a riding accident. Orantes had to talk to doctors and pay for his cousin's bills.

"I try the best I can to take care of my family," he said.

For him, the center is a personal victory in the race of life.

While the Backside Learning Center uses a building on Churchill's property it is run by volunteers who have to fundraise for all their money they need to teach. 

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