Adult Learner Stories

Literacy Changes Lives

Can you just imagine not being able to read your child a bedtime story? Or being able to read a menu in a restaurant? Or fill out a job application? There are more than 36 million adults in America that struggle with basic reading, writing, and math skills.

Take a look at the stories of some adult learners. Real people. Real stories. Stories of heartbreak, embarrassment, even desperation. In equal measure, you will hear tales of accomplishment, triumph, and inspiration.

Kathy and Mayra

“Getting My Diploma Was Once an Unthinkable Victory"

In elementary school Mayra Sanchez was put in special ed because of a language barrier - she was born in Puerto Rico. The label followed her all the way through high school. She graduated with an IEP Diploma. But the employers she was trying to work with in the health care field told her that it was not acceptable. Her goal was to become a phlebotomist. She had been told in high school that she would never achieve a diploma because of her learning disability. But Mayra was determined. She joined the Syracuse City School District's Adult Education program and took classes for three years while working full time. When she finally passed the TASC Test and earned her High School Equivalency Diploma, she was very emotional. She broke down while telling her story at graduation and Kathy Lent, coordinator of adult education for the district, finished reading her speech for her. Today she is working full time as a phlebotomist and is taking her pre-reqs at the college level to
join an X-Ray Tech program.

“I Couldn’t Spell Green”

THIS IS A STORY THAT MIGHT MAKE YOU ANGRY. It might make you sad. In the end, it will fill you with warmth. This particular story starts the same as thousands of others. However, in the end this is “Henry’s story.”

In 1950s rural Kentucky, a young boy was trying to balance his chores on the farm with his school work. Henry’s family, most of them not formally educated, was not enjoying the benefits of the post-war economic boom happening across much of America. And at just 8 years old, Henry’s family needed his help on the farm, so Henry left school. 

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It’s Not How You Start; It’s How You Finish

MARTY CALANCHE has struggled with reading since he was a child. At first he did well in school, moving right along from first grade to fourth. Then things changed. He started to notice that his reading was bad, but he still kept moving up grades. In the eighth grade he realized that he did not want to go on to the next grade. He was not ready for it and his lack of reading and spelling skills made him feel ashamed.

“I told my teacher and my principal that I wasn’t ready to go to high school because I couldn’t spell or read,” Marty said. “Their reply was that I had to go because they needed the room for the new kids who were coming in.” Marty did continue with school, but left after the 11th grade, before he had the chance to graduate.

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