Student Speaker: Gerald Francis II
Along with his volunteer tutor Steve, Gerald has been working on his reading and writing for more than a year, and has made amazing progress. Gerald spoke at our Scrabble in the City event in May, and more recently was the guest of honor at our Opening Opportunities Breakfast. Gerald's words are always very powerful, but never more so than when he writes his own story.
Below is the speech he gave at the breakfast, receiving a standing ovation.
"Like the phantom in the room, the invisible boy or perhaps, Casper the friendly ghost, that’s truly one of the best ways to describe my life as a child and a man when it comes to the world of reading. Hiding the truth of my inability to read has made me feel this way for quite some time in my life.
"Learning anything seems so impossible wallowing in a world of chaos from lack of finances and other things bred frustration with home life. Made learning at home seem like torture most times. School being no different from frustrated teachers and bullying by peers from time to time, led me to create ways to avoid them and reading all together. Although my will to learn never diminished. Cause in even the darkest room there will always shine a glimpse of light.
"My mother found ways to inspire me, my second grade teacher, Miss Fordham, made learning fun. Dr. Aaron helped me pave a way to confidence. All helped me see the light in my dark room, but the embarrassment and humiliation from peers still shoved me further and further away from my goals. And as time flashed like the blink of an eye, the scared and unprepared little boy was cast into the world to sink or swim. Surviving off of context clues and my ability to be sharp on my feet gave me the cutting edge to hide my defeat. As I appear to the eye a man, still a scared little boy, but now with a kid of my own. Talk about pressure! Who’s going to teach her how to read? Who's going to read those bedtime stories? How will I face her and tell her to be her best when I am not mine? Learning to read became my quest, no way my kid was going to have a father that couldn’t read.
"So from Hook on Phonics to Power Readers and all sorts of reader guides and the help of friends here and there I was able to break through the basic levels of reading. Always able to keep a job and provide for my family. I always felt like it was never enough money. I wanted more for myself and my family. After being laid off I was convinced by a friend to take destiny into my own hands and off to Barber College I went. Putting my new skills to the test and successfully passing Barber College. I quickly discovered that the world of entrepreneurship required an extensive amount of reading ability I lack to enhance my business and achieve my ultimate goals.
Concealed in a world of self doubt, pity, frustration, a world with no hope, "ENOUGH!!! I screamed to myself. I submerged into a cocoon, found Literacy Advance and begin my journey with Steve, my tutor. After studying several months, Steve comes to me and says how about an interview with the Board of Directors. A small interview that’s all. But of course I said yes. That’s why I’m back in the hot seat. But this time with a smile on my face and fill with joy and confidence. Thanks to my experience at the Literacy Scrabble fundraiser. I conquered my fear of crowds and reciting poetry I wrote for the first time. So this is what it’s like to soar with the eagles, feeling the wind in my face and alive for the first time.
"I am more than just a phantom, a ghost in the room. I’m a man who stands proud. Who has worked hard on my weakness with reading. Inspired to conquer my goals and aspirations. Always continuing my journey with Literacy Advance. That I may one day become a world class entrepreneur and help others reach their aspirations and goals, and become free of self-imprisonment."
- 175 adult students took reading classes (Adult Basic Education, or ABE)
- 1,165 adult students took English classes (English as a Second Language, or ESL)
- 770 classes of all types (reading + English + supplemental)
- 99% of students made progress toward a life goal
- 260 volunteer tutors
- 10 Family Literacy Events
- 850 Family Literacy attendees
- Over 2,000 new books given out to kids
- 600+ check-in phone calls made in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey