News & Blog: Learner Stories


Leaving home is never easy. Imagine making the difficult decision to leave behind everything that is familiar—people, places, culture, and language—to start fresh someplace new. This was the decision facing Yaina Mitchell in 2009. While she didn’t want to leave her home in the Dominican Republic, she felt that the United States would give her access to more opportunities and her young children a chance at a better life.

After Yaina and her family settled here, she spent years working and supporting herself and her children. But to truly develop a sense of belonging in her adopted home, Yaina wanted to become a citizen. That’s when she joined the Literacy Center’s citizenship classes, one of our fastest growing programs. Yaina learned “so many things – U.S. history, the 100 questions.” She finally felt like she understood the basics of American culture, history, and government.

More importantly, she felt like she belonged.

Literacy is more than words – it’s opportunity, it’s engagement, and it’s belonging.

Literacy is foundational to everything we’re doing as a community to create a prosperous, equitable, and richly diverse West Michigan. There are 85,000 adults in Kent County reading below the 4th grade level in English. And our community continues to welcome hundreds of new immigrants and refugees each year who need literacy support.

The Literacy Center is doubling our impact to meet this tremendous need in West Michigan. 

Yaina received her citizenship this summer. “My children are so happy for me and for what I’ve done to get citizenship.” Next year, Yaina and her son will vote for the first time together. As she says, “life has changed a lot. I am happy. Very, very happy.”

Your support of the Literacy Center will allow us to expand our programming and reach even more adults like Yaina with free literacy instruction designed to meet their immediate needs. Donate online at or call 616-459-5151. 

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