by Literacy Volunteers and Advocates on 05/01/13
Recently, the effectiveness of LVA was demonstrated when two adult learners were selected to receive honorable mentions in the Women's History Month essay contest sponsored by the DC Public Library's Adult Literacy Resource Center.
Marie Rose Senghor and Catherine Lambert each received an "honorable mention" for the essays they entered in the contest. A recognition ceremony was held on the evening of Tuesday, April 30 at the Martin Luther King, Jr, Memorial Library.
Both Ms. Senghor and Ms. Lambert have inspiring stories to share.
Ms. Senghor came to the United States from Senegal nearly two decades ago. Today she is a citizen.
Ms. Senghor received only an elementary school-level education in Senegal, a West African country where statistics from the CIA World Fact Book indicate that well over half the country is defined as lacking basic literacy skills.
Ms. Senghor came to this country seeking greater opportunity but, in an
interview, she says she eventually came to realize "so many jobs, so many things, you need to know how to read."
"When I came to America, the first year was hard because I didn't have any family here," she wrote in her essay. "I didn't speak English or read or write."
Ms. Senghor says she learned to speak English just by listening to people and from listening to the television. Thanks to someone who referred her to LVA, she's been able to improve her basic skills.
"It's helped a lot. Before LVA I couldn't even write my name," she says. Thanks to LVA she can now.
"In my country, " she says, "you would need to pay" to obtain the kind of help that LVA offers. The money she earned babysitting and cleaning houses and working on her family farm in Senegal went to her family's needs, not her own schooling.
"Today I can read and write. I studied American history and passed the citizenship test," she writes in her essay.
Catherine Lambert's own experience is testament to why adult literacy is so important in DC. Simply passed through the DC Public School system,. despite severe learning deficits, Ms. Lambert ended up leaving Roosevelt High School without graduating. She was struggling to make it despite lacking strong abilities in mathematics or reading.
Fed up with her limitations and aware that the area's employers are demanding increasingly that the people they hire have a GED or high school diploma, Ms. Lambert decided to take action.
Ms. Lambert approached our sister organization, the Academy of Hope, which prepares students for the GED test, to see if she could study there. Academy of Hope suggested that Ms. Lambert start her studies at LVA.
She's been through LVA's Basic and Level One programs and is now taking Level II courses. It's trying at times but worth it as she told the City Council recently when testifying about the importance of having the DC Government make sure adult literacy programs are adequately funded.
Interested in learning how to write an essay, Ms. Lambert saw the contest as an opportunity to learn. Receiving help from her instructors, Ms. Lambert, like Ms. Senghor, produced a well-written entry.
"I like Harriet Tubman because she was a remarkable, strong Black Woman," Ms. Lambert's essay asserts. Even though the conductor of the Underground Railroad lacked a formal education, Ms. Lambert writes, "She was on a mission from God and had the strength to know what to do to get those people out of bondage."
Leitha Wilson, lead instructor/administrator for LVA, insists, "We're very, very excited that honors have been given to Catherine and Marie Rose. Both have made great strides."
Once learners like Ms. Lambert and Ms. Senghor discover what they can accomplish, they are inspired to continue learning.
Ms. Senghor is uncertain as to what she would like to do but obtaining a GED is certainly a consideration. She writes in her essay, "I am still working on my reading and writing to become better. I am thankful to my tutors and LVA for helping me. "
Ms. Senghor has also convinced her sister, Madeleine, to start taking classes with LVA.
We might be hearing more from Ms. Lambert. She says, "Since I've learned how to write essays, I look forward to writing more of them."
Recently, a Washington Post headline proclaimed "Illiteracy is DC's biggest challenge." The experiences of Ms. Lambert and Ms. Senghor provide evidence that, given adequate help, we can overcome that challenge.