For years, Alberta Whitaker hid the pain she felt over not being able to read. After all, it was easy to hide. She had graduated from high school—surely a sign of education and accomplishment—and she had raised six children while working as a school bus driver for 17 years.
But not being able to read or write well, even after having a high school diploma, meant she encountered a number of small humiliations every day. She felt out of place at meetings where she had trouble understanding notes and conversations. She could not always help her children when they struggled in school. Some people Alberta met were quick to express their frustration with her. Her opportunities for good jobs were limited.
Now living in Syracuse, Alberta is assisted by The Learning Place, a nonprofit organization that provides free adult literacy programs to anyone needing help in the area. Her mother and sister had made use of the center’s services in the 1990s. Now, her sister, Vera, is working on an autobiography while her mother is continuing to improve her reading skills.
No one is prouder of Alberta than her tutor Ann Derr. “She’s an incredibly motivated student,” says the retired educator, who has been working with Alberta for just over a year. “It has been just delightful. I will take her as far as she wants to go.”
And how far does Alberta want to go? Her children are now grown and pursuing lives of their own. Alberta found employment through Experience Works Senior program in 20216, but she knows she needs to keep improving her skills.
Reaching out to The Learning Place has made Alberta realize that she too wants to reach out to others. Her goal is to one day be a counselor and to be able to provide young people with the help she did not receive early on. “I don’t want other people to be hurting on the inside as I did.”
Emmanuel came to The Learning Place from Ghana in 2015. He wanted to pass the High School Equivalency Test (TASC). He worked diligently to prepare for it and along the way learned how to make a snowman, which he had never done before! In June 2016 he passed his test and is now attending Onondaga Community College!
Palm has been in the United States for two years. He is a wonderful artist. It will take him more time to pass his TASC test because of the language barrier. A grant from the Rotary Foundation in 2016 has given Palm an opportunity to take a course in ceramics at Onondaga Community College to encourage his artistic talent and give him college credit!
Colleta wrote a story from her childhood in Kenya and through a grant she was able to have it printed in booklet form. She has been studying for her TASC Test and just has the math part left to pass. While she is waiting we felt she would enjoy an English class at Onondaga Community College so with another grant we were able to provide her with that opportunity!