News & Blog: Learner Stories

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I’m married to a former “lost boy of Sudan” who is now a United States citizen. We have four children ranging from 11 months the 10 years old and I will be thirty years old next month.

When I grew up in South Sudan things were very difficult. I lived in the village where there was no electricity, no school, no good buildings and no hospital because our country had been in civil war for 21 years between the North and the South Sudan.

My name is Norielit, I’m from Mexico. I came from Mexico a while ago and I didn’t speak any English. I went to school a couple months. When I finished that program, I decided to call Literacy Center. They helped me to find a tutor who is helping me with my learning. I am so glad to have someone who is interested in my learning.

Together we had an interview at WOODTV 8 on eightWest in September with Terri and Rachael. This was about the tutoring program. This was my first time on television. I was very nervous, but at the same time I was very excited. They asked questions about the program and how the Literacy Center helped me to learn. The people who work in television were very friendly and nice, that helped me to feel more confident.

When Jerry came to the Literacy Center of West Michigan to request a tutor to help him improve his reading and writing skills, one of his most important goals was to be able to write a note to a member of his church. Jerry is a Deacon in his church and he likes to reach out to those who are homebound or unable to attend church activities for some reason. He often visited them in person but he also wanted to write a note to them now and then.

Jerry and his tutor, Don, worked on his writing skills and in just a matter of a few weeks, Jerry was able to send his first note. For Jerry, it is very empowering to now have the confidence and skills to do this important outreach. Since his first experience, he has continued to write notes. Jerry continues to work with his tutor refining his reading and writing skills.

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.

I was born in Misantla, Veracruz, Mexico. I have been living in Grand Rapids for 11 years. I am married and have three daughters. Two of them are in elementary school, and the small one is 20 months old, so she is going to a preschool.

I am a volunteer at Cesar Chavez School where my girls attend. I help at Cook Library sometimes because they greatly help the neighborhood children with their programs during the school year and in the summer.

An Important Step in My Life

My name is Veronica and my primary language is Spanish. I speak English with a strong accent. For years I told myself I need to improve my English speaking and writing. This would help me to communicate better at work and outside of work.

Because English is a difficult language to learn I always made excuses to not study. One day someone mentioned the Literacy Center to me. The Literacy Center assigned me a tutor. I have been with the tutor for a year now.

A visa lottery in Ethiopia brought Frehiwet Asfaw, her husband, Luel, and their young son, Tito to Lansing, Michigan. Luel’s sister had a house in the Lansing area where Frehiwet and her family could begin their new life. Frehiwet and Luel worked hard to build up savings for their family. She worked at a food packaging company, a toothbrush manufacturing company, a salon product supplier, and at the airport.

Antonia has had trouble with spelling/decoding spelling patterns, and there are street signs near her house she never felt confident saying correctly. After a lesson on vowel teams, she was talking about these streets and she realized she could use what she learned in a lesson on vowel teams and pronounced them correctly.

Beacon - say the name of e and the a is silent.

She said she knows how she was saying them wrong before and now she knows she'll be understood when she gives directions.

Written by Christy Dam, class instructor

My name is Silvia Guzman and I am from Mexico. I'm married and have five children. Three are living with me and two are in Mexico.

When I came to the Literacy Center I set for myself three major goals:

  1. To obtain the skills of reading, writing, listening and speaking/conversation in English.
  2. To become a United States citizen.
  3. To obtain my driver's license.

On March 29, 2016 I took my citizenship test, passed it and was sworn in as a US citizen. My tutor has worked with me for two years on this, thank-you. At the present time my tutor & I are working on obtaining a driver's license.

My son takes me out to practice on the road and my tutor helps me with the laws and identification of road signs.

After I had my interview with the Literacy Center and I was paired up with my tutor, my family life changed. My son was here just five weeks from Mexico; he had a terrible accident in Lake Michigan. He broke his neck and is paralyzed from the neck down. He spent several days in a hospital than to Mary Free Bed Hospital for several weeks. When I was up at the hospital, I needed to listen, speak and understand what those doctors were saying.

Now that he is at home, someone must be with him 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I am thankful for my tutor, Michelle who meets with me every Saturday morning for two hours or more.

Some of the extra things Michelle brings to our time together are: talking on the telephone with a salesman, reading aloud and having it recorded, than listen to see if you can understand it, reading the Michigan map, reading the mileage from city to city, finding a city, finding Michelle's vacation spot and how many miles did Michelle travel in Michigan. Sometimes we go out for lunch and coffee and always practice conversation. I went shopping and used coupons for the first time. I went to the farmers market and saw fruits & vegetables that I didn't know what they were.I bought a squash fixed it for my family and it was delicious.

Thank-you to the Literacy Center. Thank-you Michelle for your patience and time you have given me, I am thankful.

Hello, my name is Alejandra and I am 38 years old, I am from Mexico city. I have been in the U.S. for almost 16 years. I’m a mom of three girls, my husband and I work full time to afford everything for our family. I’ve worked at McDonald's for 15 years. I'm a crew trainer and it started getting hard to do my job better because my English was not very good.

I have tried to take classes in other places, I even took some in my daughter's school but they were too easy. Then I tried many other places as well but in many they said I didn’t have the requirements needed to take the classes.

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