Second Place Finalist

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About the Finalist:

"Vision Literacy is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization created in response to growing numbers of adults in Santa Clara County who have difficulty with reading and writing, as well as basic math and computer skills.

With more than 5 programs in the Santa Clara County, Vision Literacy provides innovative and holistic literacy services for adults, empowering them to reach their goals and potential.

For more than 30 years, Vision Literacy has partnered with donors, volunteers, and organizations to raise awareness and funds to provide necessary services to adults with low literacy skills.

Our mission: To help every single Bay Area person, who wishes to improve their literacy skills, succeed in their goal."




Ruben Dozal Jr. was born in Brawley, California. He is one of eight children. He has worked hard and struggled through life. With little education and no high school diploma, life has had its ups and downs for Ruben. He has tried to make the best out of each and every situation brought to him.

“I had no idea what literacy meant and did not care because I knew how to spell my name and knew how much I was getting paid an hour. To tell you the truth that was all that mattered until I was blessed with grandchildren.” [1]

Ruben often narrates how he pretended to read to his grandchildren from storybooks, until one day his grand daughter pointed out “Grandpa, that's not what it says here”. Ruben was determined to learn how to read and write so he could finally read to his grandkids. His granddaughter’s daycare teacher suggested that he attend the adult Reading Program when she realized he had a flair for words, in spite of being illiterate. Ruben enrolled in Vision Literacy. It was a turning point.

His journey was not without struggles. In his poem “Embarrassment,” he tells about the shame of learning to read and write as an older adult. He recalls how insecure he felt the first time his reading tutor expected him to read aloud on his own.

“You ask me about literacy, what can I say that has not been said before. What can I tell you from a man who has worked the fields of mud, dirt, and heat? What can I tell you when you are asked to read out loud and every other word is read or pronounced wrong? The giggles and laughter you can hear. Pick up your head to see who is laughing at you, you cannot help but feel the shame and the sounds are eating at your heart.

What can I tell you about literacy, you people can get a newspaper and read it like it was nothing? Then you ask me what do you think about this story and my reply is okay, not having a clue about what you are talking about.” [2]

Ruben worked with Page Jones-Goulding, a former tutor at Vision Literacy to improve his reading and writing skills. Today, Ruben is 80 and is really excited about attending our computer literacy classes soon. His thirst for knowledge startles us and reinforces that “age is indeed just a number”

“But what can I say about literacy, after fifty years your ears are cleansed and the meaning of the word is finally learned in your mind. If you still have any questions, please ask me or a person who like me has opened that door of literacy and come out with a pen in his hand. Yes a pen in his hand on fire and ready to put its mark on paper.” [3]

Ruben is a published poet and author. His book, My Dad's Thoughts: Bits and Pieces of Life, is available from Rosedog Books at

*[1][2][3] From Author, What About Literacy. Copyright 2005 Ruben Dozal Jr.

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