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So Many Stories to Celebrate!

"It was difficult to go back to school at my age, but I am so glad I did!

I love my new life!"

- Hussain Edarus

"Anything worth having is not easy, and this has NOT been easy.

But here I am!"

- Tina Watson

On June 7, Literacy for Life honored its learners and tutors at the annual Celebration of Lifelong Learning. The highlight of the event came when learners Hussain Edarus and Tina Watson shared their stories from the podium.

Originally from Kenya, Hussain learned about Literacy for Life from his sister, Salma, who had previously completed her high school diploma and entered the medical field with LFL's help. Hussain decided to pursue his Commercial Driver's License (CDL). LFL's career coach, Frances, helped him to access funding and prepare for his interview for the CDL training program. Meanwhile, his tutor, Ron, helped him to prepare for the permit exam. "I now work for a trucking company, driving across 32 states," Hussain gushed. "I love the views! It is so green compared to Kenya. The roads are good and the signs are accurate. And for the first time in 38 years, I have the medical benefits of vision, dental, and doctor."

Tina Watson left high school in order to care for her mother, then later endured two devastating tragedies: a car accident and house fire. Tina persevered, and with the help of tutors Diana and Suzanne, she obtained her high school diploma in 2020. After that, Tina enrolled at Thomas Nelson Community College, where she is successfully pursuing an Associate's Degree in Human Services. Tina described how it still "gives me chills" to remember learning to write paragraphs with Diana, and she is grateful that Suzanne "would never just give me the answer. She would reassure me that I had all the tools I needed. I would be so proud when I figured it out myself, and she would be too!" Only days before she spoke at the Celebration, Tina received a job offer from William & Mary, where she will be joining the team in Human Resources!

Every learner in attendance shared a goal or accomplishment with the group. Cecia Shinaberry received special recognition for her years of success with the program, culminating in an exciting recent success. Cesia enrolled with LFL as a non-English speaker in 2015 and subsequently obtained certifications as a nursing assistant, medication aide, and phlebotomist. She returned to LFL for assistance studying for the ASVAB to enroll in the Army. With the help of her tutor, Dave, she surpassed her goal score and now has the luxury of choosing among many possible career paths in the military. She and Dave had previously met only via Zoom and enjoyed finally meeting in person at the Celebration!

Following the recognition of learners, the event turned to tutors. In the spirit of Lifelong Learning, Literacy for Life selected two tutors as recipients of the annual "Tutor of the Year" award. Dave Ross, a tutor since 2013, has assisted 11 learners over the years. Most recently assisted Cesia with her ASVAB preparation. In an email to staff at the beginning of the match, Dave wrote, "I took the practice test at the beginning of the ASVAB book. It was hard! It's amazing how much science and math I have forgotten. Oh well, I will refresh my knowledge along with her."

In the same vein, tutor Carol Schuster has been with LFL since 2011. Over the past few years, Carol has embraced dyslexia tutoring using a specialized curriculum, digital literacy tutoring on a PC (rather than her more familiar Mac), virtual tutoring, math tutoring, tutoring for the National External Diploma Program, and ESL tutoring of recently arrived refugees from Afghanistan, whom she also assisted with career services and integration into their new community.

Dave and Carol are only two examples of the many Literacy for Life volunteers who give so generously of their time, willingly learning new things and inspiring their learners with their infectious "can do" attitude. The program also acknowledged the 62 active tutors who have given more than 100 hours of lifetime volunteer service to Literacy for Life. Topping the list with over three thousand hours of service were David Monahan and John Tinker. The Celebration of Lifeline Learning is an uplifting, "can't miss" event every year. We look forward to celebrating together again in June 2023 and encourage everyone to join us!

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