Student Stories

Literacy Gives a New Feeling - Margarita Muñoz

Margarita Muñoz, a learner who has been attending the program for three years, went from reading at a second-grade level to being one test away from earning her GED, as of summer 2010.

"I feel like a new person," Muñoz said in a recent Sun-News article. "I am a new person. People say, ‘you look different.' I am different and I feel different. I have learned so many things."

Muñoz is now able to read and write in English and Spanish and wants to go to college to study radiology after she finishes her GED. She said when she sees students walking on the NMSU campus with their books on their way to classes, she feels like she is now one of them.

She says she wants to give back and become a Literacy Volunteer herself and set an example for future learners. "I want to tell them, if I can do it, they can do it, too."

To Muñoz, education is like "...a treasure (she has) discovered in (her) mind" that will help her build a new future. "You can lose your job, your car, but school is like a treasure...that no one can take away from you," she says.


Pushing for That Valuable GED Despite Life's Challenges - Vaughn Patterson

Even with the challenges that come with caring for a family of six on a limited income, Vaughn Patterson was able to carry on because his father had always urged him to "Keep going, don't give up."

Patterson began his GED studies in 2000 and persevered while being the sole provider for his wife and four children, undergoing open-heart surgery, and coming off medical leave only to be laid off from his job. These life challenges were compounded by additional barriers of language and a ninth grade education.

"English was my second language, " said Patterson, born to a Mexican mother and American father. "I didn't have high school or my parents helping me. My mom didn't want to speak English and my dad didn't have the time to teach me."

It was the Literacy Volunteers of Doña Ana County who helped Patterson to successfully pass his GED exam. Patterson studied full time at the Quintana Learning Center at Doña Ana Community College, where the Literacy Volunteers has its office.

In September 2009, he was honored for his accomplishment as both DACC's Adult Basic Education Student of the Year, and New Mexico Adult Education Association's Outstanding GED student. He has since enrolled in college.

Patterson said that it was the encouragement of the Literacy Volunteers that kept him going, and it was their example that inspired him to seek a career in public service.

"I want to give back to the community," he explains. Already, he has served as Student Representative on the LVDAC's Advisory Council.


Learners Share Their Culture: MY CHILDHOOD IN CHINA

[Permission has been granted by my student, who wished to remain anonymous, to use this story, written to tell about her life before coming to America. --Pat Murphy, LVDAC tutor]

I was born in the province of Kwang Zhou, Ching Sun City,region in Liao Fong village, to a poor, big family. My paternal grandparents had seven children: four sons and three daughters. My father was the oldest of the seven children. My parents had five children, three daughters and two sons, myself being the oldest.

Recollection of my youth was very difficult and unforgettable past. This sad memory went as far back as when I was four years old. The year was l959. China was under the direction of Mao Tse Tong. Government called for collective big leap. Everything is under government management, including food. The whole village was required to eat meals in one big dining hall. If anyone was to hide food at home, she/he would be publicly persecuted. Since the population lives without sufficient food and clothing to keep warm, this time in China was akin to a thousand miles of complete darkness.

There were no civil rights and no freedom to talk. If one says a wrong word he/she was accused of being anti-revolutionary. He or she was thrown in jail. To visit a relative had to be reported to the authority. One was required to live in the same locality throughout his life. At the time both my parents became sick. The health providers were not reputable, and my mother died. Since then, I lost the love of my mother. My poor younger sister was not quite one year old. My mother was sick for many months. Therefore my younger sister was malnourished and often got sick even though someone was looking after her. Therefore, my grandma decided to stay home to take care of us. Since she was not allowed to work outside the home, the village gave us little food to cook at home. I was only 4 years old and had to eat at the village dining hall. Everyday I went to the dining hall with a little plate like a little beggar. I was given food on the plate and brought it home crying all the way. The food tasted very bad. In the rice there were the leaves of sweet potatoes. Most of the rice was sweet potatoes and cabbage. Potatoes had worms. Tasted really bad. The cabbage was like the leaf used to feed the pigs. At the time, many seniors became malnourished. Many had edema due to lack of nourishment. Many died. My grandpa had edema. Luckily, he survived. This way of life lasted three whole years. The officials treated us to their own advantage.

In l961, the commune dining hall was discontinued, but the food was still managed by the government. Each family received a food ration to take home. However, the food was sparse. Certainly, better than the commune dining hall.

Now, I will talk about my family situation. When I was not quite 5 years old, and since I lost the love of my mother, it was paternal grandma and auntie who took care of me and my younger sister. Four months after my mother died, my dad remarried. My step-mother quarreled with my grandma. Even though I was very young, I realized from their voices that they were having conflicts. I got scared and started to cry. They quarreled for many years. My grandma did not want to move out because she wanted to care for us until we were older. In that way, we will be old enough to help step-mother to do chores and life will not be burdensome for her. Then grandma would be ready to move out. But this discord between them found no solution. Once grandma and my step-mother argued and fought gravely, so my grandma finally moved out. I was about ten years old and my younger sister was seven.

Before my grandma left I was under her care. I did not have to do chores at home. Within a week after grandma left I was made to do big and small tasks at home. Every morning I woke up at 5 a.m. doing laundry for 7 people, cooked, fed the pig, dog and cat, children and ducks. Then I proceeded to school at 8 a.m. But my step-mother was an irrational and unreasonable person. Even though I helped her do all the tasks, she was still not happy. She yelled at me all day long. She even hit people. Therefore, every morning when I see her bad disposition, my heart seemed to jump with fear. When she scolded us unreasonably, my father would say: "Endure and cultivate virtues". He never cared for us or spoke on our behalf. At times when she scolded me, my tears would flow. She yelled to me and said "If living is such a bad thing, why don't you die with your Mom?" Therefore, when she scolded and yelled at me, I held my tears. I cried at night by myself until my pillow was soaked. When I started attending school at 6 years old, I did very well, but things did not last. When I started 6th Grade, the family environment changed. At the same time in l966, China started the Cultural Revolution. The unruly Red Guard created chaos all throughout China. All factories stopped working; schools closed; the teachers were persecuted by the students. The quality of education dropped. Everybody read Mao's Red Book. At the time, China was very behind. There was no water; no electricity. When I returned from school, I had to go up the mountain to cut firewood and grass. After finishing all the household tasks, then I used a small oil lamp to do homework. When I was in the 5th Grade, my youngest sister was born. My parents wanted to save on paying a nanny. I took care of my baby sister. I had to carry her on my back to do my work. For two full years I stood outside the window of the school to listen to the teacher's class work.

In l968, I graduated from elementary school. At the time, China started to establish middle school system. I wanted to continue schooling, but my step-mother did not allow it. She even went to my biological mother's family to let them know that elementary education is sufficient. Females do not need much education. She did not let me go to school after that. When I was 14, she sent me to work on the farm.

My memories of my childhood in China are very sad and very difficult, and yet very unforgettable.


STARS OF EXCELLENCE:  Our 2010-11 Student of the Year, Juan Valenzuela

After graduating from high school, Juan Valenzuela went to work in an automotive shop.  He worked there for many years before the economy demanded a reduction in force and Juan lost his job.  How, now, was he to support his family? At his younger daughter’s Head Start conference, the topic of his education arose.  At the teacher’s urging, Juan decided to apply to Doña Ana Community College to study for an Associate degree in Heating and Air Conditioning.  Recognizing he was facing a difficult time, particularly in math, he sought assistance through the Adult Basic Education Division.  After being assessed, he actively sought assistance as a Pre-Vocational student at the Quintana Learning Center. 

Juan studied independently on mathematical software.  Noticing his diligence and his determination to succeed, a staff member referred him to the Literacy Volunteers of Doña Ana County, who matched Juan with a volunteer tutor, Virginia Adams.  They met weekly for three hours.

At thirty-five, Juan completed his first semester at Doña Ana Community College with better than average grades.  He has since chosen to return to his passion, automotive studies, and continues to meet with Virginia twice a week.  Because of his desire to improve life for himself and his family, a serendipitous referral, and a willing volunteer, Juan entered his second semester and continues to make steady academic progress.

We congratulate Juan, who was recognized as ABE’s Student of the Year at the DACC Stars of Excellence Ceremony on November 30, 2010, at the Palms Ramada Inn.


STARS OF EXCELLENCE: Our 2010-11 Student of the Year Runner-Up, Joseph Meraz

At age nineteen, Joseph Meraz knew that he needed more than a ninth-grade education in order to provide for his wife and two children.  He also knew that a diagnosed learning disability would make learning difficult. In June 2010, Joseph sought educational assistance by enrolling in the Adult Basic Education Division at Doña Ana Community College.  He knew a GED would help him find more stable employment and help him read to his children so they “might enjoy school and be more successful.”

Joseph began to study at the Quintana Learning Center almost daily.  However, discouraging assessment scores and his unpredictable work schedule made GED classes seem out of reach. The solution came from Literacy Volunteers of Doña Ana County.  Once referred, Joseph called weekly to see if a volunteer was available.  In August, he was assigned a tutor, Kathi Barit, with whom he met every week.  Not only did they work on his reading, they developed his resumé, studied for his driver’s license, and tackled multiplication facts. 

Tracking down his high school records, contacting the local Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (who will help develop Joseph’s work-related skills) and studying the driver’s manual have put Joseph on a path to success.  Obtaining his GED is distant, but he’s getting closer every day.

We congratulate Joseph, who was recognized as ABE’s Student of the Year Runner-Up at a ceremony in November, 2010, at the Quintana Learning Center.

 
Literacy Volunteers of Dona Ana County Everything Las Cruces ProLiteracy Accredited Member ProLiteracy Member DACC