Students' Success Stories 2020-21
We all enjoy success stories. They are positive messages about overcoming obstacles, working hard for the reward, and finding satisfaction in completing challenges. Read about the students who have obtained citizenship, those who escaped war torn countries and now have assimilated into American society and absorbed our culture, and those who finally read a bedtime story to a young child or grandchild. That last achievement has a special significance for a Basic Literacy student after a lifetime of frustration and low self-esteem. Here at Literacy Volunteers of America we like to celebrate all those positive events in our students’ lives. Sometimes we celebrate with hugs and treats, but most often, we share these achievements with others through this page on our website. That way all of our LVA community can share in the celebration of their success!
After leaving Jamaica and landing in Jersey, Robert has discovered a new passion... learning literacy.
“When I came to America, I could not sound a letter. I could not write my name,” Robert said. Now, reading new words has become an integral part of his daily routine. Robert’s tutor, “Mr. Will,” as Robert calls him, offers a constant supply of new material for Robert to study.
And study, he does. “When I go to work, anytime I get a break, I study. Since I have started with Will, I hardly sleep,” Robert said. “I try and read whatever I can wherever I go.
Robert spends his days working in housekeeping at a local hospital. He was recently awarded “Best Worker.” Robert’s award came as no surprise to anyone, especially Will. In describing Robert Will said, “Robert’s tenacity and persistence as a student show in the reading progress he has made. Every week when he comes into a tutoring session, he has mastered a new concept or skill.”
A strong work ethic is Robert’s key to his success. Raised in humble surroundings in a farming town in Jamaica, Robert and his 10 siblings did not have the opportunity to attend school. Instead, they worked in the fields picking corn, peas, and bananas. His mother, with children in tow, would then take the crops to the market for sale to the villagers. Looking back at his childhood, Robert has happy memories. “It was special being surrounded by people who loved me.”
In March 2014, Robert had the opportunity to come to live with his sister who had already established residence in the United States. In April of that same year, Robert started work at a restaurant. From there, he went to an interview at his current place of employment and was hired on the spot.
“When I came to the United States,” Robert said, “I could not speak properly. I spoke a broken language.” But that has now changed. “Mr. Will is a good tutor. He is a very, very nice man.” And Will is duly impressed with Robert’s success. “Every week when he comes into a tutoring session, he has mastered a new concept or skill. This progress can only be attributed to his hard work and sincere desire to improve his literacy: he has taken full control of his learning which I fully admire,” Will said. “Robert knows what it means to work hard, both with his literacy work and in his job. I have a lot of respect for him.”
Literacy Volunteers is proud to have Robert as a student and positive role model to others. Robert has been in our program for less than a year. Will said, “The progress that he has made is unbelievable. He is now reading chapter books at a third grade level.”
Barbara, an ESOL student from France, wrote her story as an engaging memoir, which follows and was edited for length.
I was born and grew up close to Paris. The Louvre and the Orsay museum had no secrets for me when I was a child. We bathe in the middle of works of art without realizing it.
My studies took place at the Beaux-Arts in Paris and then at the Sorbonne. I lived in the Quartier Latin and in Montmartre. I spent most of my life in the City of Lights.
I worked as a journalist for the Nouvel Observateur, Le Monde diplomatique which are national newspapers, France Culture radio and also the Capa press agency. Being a woman in a world of men - because the editors are still overwhelmingly male, except in newsrooms like Vogue or Elle - is a real challenge. As women, we must impose ourselves. It’s a real fight!
I mainly wrote articles on international politics, dealing with social issues and environmental issues. You remember the movie “Erin Brockovich”? I did a similar investigation. My editor had nicknamed me “Erin”. It was trying, but also very humanly rewarding.
After scanning the banks of the Seine and walking across Paris on all sides, the day I had the opportunity to change scenery, I said yes, right away. Not that Paris bored me, but because discovering other horizons was exciting.
My husband, my daughter and I, first moved to Sydney, Australia. It is difficult to go further. It’s the end of the world! After one year, my husband was transferred to New York. We had three months to get used to the idea of changing country again.
This is my third year in the United States. I had taken language courses in Australia, which allowed me to order coffee, at least. I’m exaggerating, sort of. My English learned in France was pretty basic. Our English teachers are French. This partly explains our disastrous accent.
When I arrived in New York City, everything I saw was familiar to me and at the same time everything was extraordinary: the streets, the taxis, the buildings…The sound universe also: the sirens of firefighters, those of the police, or trains.
Surprised to see white eggs (they are yellow in France), order Chinese food in cardboard boxes like in the movies, cry while looking for cheese and desperately looking for a baguette… It was little things like that. I was amazed by the kindness of the people here. Welcoming neighbors, who say hello, it was very new to me.
What is fascinating is discovering a world city. There are absolutely all nationalities in New York City. My daughter was immediately taken care of by the staff of her school so that she had a good English level.
Unlike France, one can take language courses for free. Without the language, we are alone. Human beings are social animals. We need others. It is essential to speak the language of the country in which we live. I found the LVA program and it saved my life. Abby and Rosalee are my two tutors. I’m gradually learning to speak English better. They are both benevolent, patient and undoubtedly competent. Thanks to my tutors, I hope to resume my job as a journalist.