News & Blog: Learner Stories


My Past Does Not Define the Future

Hi, my name is Charla Peterson and I want to tell you how I came to the Literacy Center of West Michigan.

I have struggled with learning most of my life. I have tried my hardest to hide this from family and friends, being embarrassed and scared to let most people know I had this “problem.”

My mother took my sister and I out of public schools when I was entering the 4th and my sister the 6th grade. Mom decided to homeschool my sister and I. At first, mom got books for us to read and learn from, but we needed more help. As time went on, mom was helping us less and less. Not knowing better, we just went with it. We ended up further and further behind. After taking with friends about things they were learning in school I saw how much I didn’t know.

When I got my high school diploma I felt like I did not deserve it. The worst was when I got a job, I found someone to help me fill out the application, frightened that I would be asked to read or write.

Needing a simpler job, I moved to Grand Rapids to look. What I found was Dave, my dear husband. I had not told him about my lack of literacy. My courage came some time after we were married. I sat him down and told the whole story. Not sure how he would react, I held my breath. He was very surprised, but God’s grace fell on me and Dave was very understanding and said he would do what he could to help. I love him for this.

As time went on, I began looking for help. Someone told me about the Literacy Center, so I called. Being very nervous, I first talked to a lady who put me at east right away, making me feel good about calling. We arranged for me to come there and take care of paperwork and to test me.

A while later they had found me a tutor, her name is Penny. I like to call her my teacher as she is a wonderful teacher who has taught me many things. I look forward to working with her in the future.

Editor’s note: Since writing this article a year ago, Charla has left the Adult Tutoring Program. Writing her story was particularly important to her and she was very proud of it. Like Charla, many native speakers of English struggle to admit that they need help with literacy. Charla accomplished a significant amount in her time with Penny and we wish her the best in her next steps.

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