Literacy Volunteer Students
Ana Guzman, English Language Student
“It was hard coming from another country,” says Ana Guzman. “It was hard to buy things for cooking. You don’t know the name, and you’re not sure you’re buying the right thing. You don’t know what to do if someone gives you the wrong change.” When she couldn’t cope with a mistake at a store, she says, “I went home and cried in my house.”
Ana had struggled in the English classes she'd taken, so an individual tutor was perfect for her. “The most thing I appreciate is time – she has time for me. She can make the time work – if I’m busy, we can reschedule. And I said, ‘Ooh, that’s a nice way to learn! And she brings me presents! If I don’t know what something is, she brings it to me, like fudge.”
After a little over a year with her tutor, Ana was comfortable enough in English to give a talk at a fundraiser. She encourages immigrant co-workers who are afraid to go into stores for fear of being misunderstood or not knowing what to say. She sends them straight to Literacy Volunteers.
I was born July 9, 1923 in Athens, Georgia. I grew up during segregation and during the Depression. All through my growing up, schools, churches, and everyplace else was segregated. Some of us didn’t know how to read or write.
My father was one of those who couldn’t read. As an adult, he learned to read and write his name, Rob. Once he learned, he wrote it everywhere—on the wall of the house, even the door of the outdoor toilet! He was so proud!
Since I was a young child, I’ve struggled with reading and writing. I can read some, but I want to be able to better understand what I’m reading and to follow instructions.
After high school, I came to New England with my younger sister and I met my late husband, John. We raised five children. After my children grew up and moved away, I started to spend my time volunteering. I just see the need, and I have an opportunity to learn things I didn’t have a chance when I was going to school. I want to learn so that I can help others.
I take lessons in piano and trumpet and belong to the Grange and Toastmasters. I joined a Book Club through Literacy Volunteers where we read wonderful stories and talk about them. I work with a tutor on writing down my stories and memories, and now I’m learning to use a computer.
And so here I am at 92 years old and I’m still struggling and learning. I haven’t given up learning yet, even though I had many setbacks in my life. Sometimes people tell me I’m too old to learn, but I try not to let it stop me. As long as the door is open and the opportunity is there, I take advantage of it and go through that door.
Angela Montoya, English Language Student
Angela Montoya came from Colombia with her sons in search of a better life. She’s keenly aware of the subtle ways a weak grasp of English held her back. She was so afraid to speak English that she wouldn’t even try to order at a fast food restaurant.
“People can think you aren’t smart” when you’re silent, Angela explains. “I’ve been silent too many times,” she continues. “There is more in me than shows on the outside.”
Did she change that? Oh, yes. Once she got a better grip on spoken English, Angela was sailing. She completed a medical assisting program, got a job in her field, and became a U.S. Citizen. Today, she makes sure to give back and routine shares her story so that other immigrants can “jump the language barrier” and gain confidence.
“I could read somewhat. I didn’t read anything of importance, because I didn’t understand anything that I was reading. I could get a bill, but didn’t understand the description of why my bill was this amount. And sometimes with new medications for my boys, the only way I was really going to find out anything was to call Poison Control.”
Brandi Meservey was born into generational poverty and low literacy. The last grade she completed was 7th. By her mid-20s, she had survived domestic violence, drugs, and homelessness. Now, as a single mom of three, she wanted something better for her children.
A job training program and Literacy Volunteers got her started. With better reading and writing skills, her world has opened up.
Today Brandi is in the Automotive Technician Program at EMCC. She has voted for the first time and has shared her love of learning with her children.
“Yesterday when I told my five-year-old that I was going to college, he said he was proud of me,” she said. “And nothing feels better than that!”
Sixty-seven-year-old Richie came to the organization after a lifetime of working hard and getting by with low reading abilities. Today, he’s a reader. He says proudly, “It doesn’t matter if I’m home or in the grocery store. I can’t stop picking up magazines and reading them. I’ve got to know what’s inside.” Richie also remembers not being able to read to his children and grandchildren. But today, he proudly reads to his new great-grandchild.
A native of Cameroon, in central Africa, Elodie could not speak or understand English when she arrived in Bangor. She lived in an apartment, with her husband and preschool daughter. Elodie’s husband reached out to Literacy Volunteers of Bangor on her behalf. In just nine months working with her Literacy Volunteer tutor, and with much hard work and dedication, Elodie improved her English skills. With her new skills, she has been able to better support her family and gain back some independence.
Also, in that short time, Elodie has acquired her driver’s license, been placed in the Advanced English class at Bangor Adult & Community Education, and successfully gained employment with a major retailer. Elodie’s future goals include attending University and acquiring her US Citizenship.
Linda parents her four children with her supportive husband. For years, though, she was dogged by poor reading skills, which limited her ability to help her children with school work and get ahead at her job. Ultimately, Linda was inspired by a friend who shared his literacy and life advances since working with Literacy Volunteers. Today, Linda is an inspiration. She improved her reading skills several grade levels, receive a promotion at work, helps her children with homework, reads for pleasure, and speaks on behalf of Literacy Volunteers about her positive experience.
Yoselyn, an immigrant from the Dominican Republic, arrived in Maine knowing very little English. We assigned her a tutor and they have worked together for several years. Today, Yoselyn’s enthusiastic personality shines as she describes all the things she’s learned and the independence she has gained through improved language and reading skills. “Before, I had to have my husband make all my appointments. I didn’t feel comfortable talking on the phone,” she says. Today, she navigates her own and her children’s medical, school, and business communications gracefully in person and over the phone. She got a job and in 2014 she became a U.S. citizen.
Nicole Hustus had a secret. A successful wife and mother, she volunteered many hours in her community, church and children’s school. “You would think I had it all together,” she says.
But she didn’t. She’d spent years hiding the fact that she never finished high school. Eventually she made a half-hearted contact with Literacy Volunteer to get help in pursuing a diploma. Then, she got nervous and abandoned the idea.
But the Literacy Volunteers staff was persistent. “Someone wanted to help me get this thing that was haunting me. So I said okay, even though I was very nervous and scared. They hooked me up with this awesome lady, my friend [and tutor] Deb Glazier.”
Deb helped Nicole study for the high school equivalency test (HiSET) and in the winter of 2015 she passed the tests! Soon she will be walking in her cap and gown during her high school graduation with her family proudly watching. Nicole credits her strength to the Lord as well as her family's encouragement and encourages anyone who wants to get their HiSET to contact Literacy Volunteers today!
Click here for an audio interview to hear Nicole and her tutor Deb describe what Literacy Volunteers of Bangor means to them.
In 2004, 19-year-old Vietnamese immigrant Hoang Lam came to our office with his English-speaking uncle so that he could apply for an English tutor. At that time, he understood very little English. “My English was horrible…It was like a nightmare for me,” remembers Hoang.
After hundreds of hours and lessons with his tutors, Hoang is now living the American dream. In the spring of 2009, Hoang received his Associates degree from Eastern Maine Community College in Electrical Engineering Technology. In the summer of 2010, Hoang became an American citizen. In the spring of 2011, he received a Bachelors Degree in Electrical Engineering Technology and began his engineering career with TRC Solutions in Augusta!