Success stories of students are truly amazing

September 8, International Literacy Day, is celebrated by our agency with a supplement in the Modesto Bee.  Click here to read the amazing stories of our students like Arowa Humadi who ultimately was separated from her children when she chose to get an education.  Also read about Esteban Torres who was not deterred from his goal of a diploma and now has a better job.  How precious an education is to our students is evident as you read these stories.

Leaving a Legacy of Literacy

Over the last few years, many friends of LearningQuest have asked us about including LearningQuest in their wills or other estate planning vehicles in addition to making their annual gifts. We are indeed blessed.

Occasionally, financial advisors will recommend that gifts be made to charitable organizations before year’s end in order to reduce tax obligations. Other good friends want to plan well for how their estates will benefit those charities which they care about deeply.

Time after time, proceeds from an estate will be shared with LearningQuest because of the donors’ passion for helping to improve lives.

Here are a few ways you may want to consider in your estate planning:

· Bequest: One of the most common planned gifts. A nonprofit organization is bequeathed a gift in a donor’s will or trust. The gift may be designated as (a) percentage of the donor’s estate, (b) specific dollar amount or specific property, (c) residual of the donor’s estate or (d) contingent upon a certain event happening. The value of the gift to LearningQuest is not subject to estate taxes.

· Outright Gift: A gift of cash, appreciated securities, real estate, personal property, etc. – the title of which is legally transferred will generate an income tax deduction (for those who itemize deductions), for the full fair market value and capital gains taxes are avoided, reducing the cost of the gift to the donor.

· Life Insurance Policy: A relatively inexpensive way for a donor to leave a significant gift to a nonprofit organization. A new policy may be taken out on the life of a younger donor, and the policy given to LearningQuest to “create” a major, deferred gift to LearningQuest with the cost of the premium being a small fraction of the face value of the policy. Donors may also have existing policies which are no longer needed for their original purposes (such as to assure a child’s education) which can be given. With a change of policy ownership and beneficiary to the nonprofit, the donor can contribute the premium amount to the charity and the policy’s face value can be maintained. If the donor chooses not to continue payments, the cash value or “paid up insurance” value can be significant. Donors’ tax deductions are equal to their cash/replacement value or premiums paid, depending on the type of policy.

· Retirement Income: Retirement plan distribution. Retirement plan distributions can be taxed for both estate and income tax purposes (often 75%-80%) when passed from the decedent to other than the decedent’s spouse. Since 100% of the IRD plan can be gifted to a qualified charity without tax it has become a prime estate planning gift, leaving other estate assets (which are not taxed for income) to loved ones. Gifts of IRD plans should be gifted directly to LearningQuest by designating the charity as the beneficiary
There are other forms of planned gifts. We recommend that you work with your financial advisor and attorney for up-to-date information and regulations. These professionals can help you determine the best way to plan your estate. When doing so, we hope you will consider including LearningQuest in your plans.

Awards Night Award Winners Announced

Awards Night was a tremendously exciting event again as our Award Winners and graduates were honored and celebrated by over 350 family members and friends.

.Class pictureDavid Delgadoaudience

This year’s award winners are as follows:

Tutor of the Year for Literacy
Denise Nordell

Denise has been a volunteer tutor for the past ten years.  She did it at first to honor her father who had tutored in the jail and that was a place where she also tutored for a time.  One of her students earned her GED. Now, Denise has two students she meets with at the Modesto Library and works with one who is improving her English so she can get a better job and eventually go to college and another who is who began at a fourth grade reading level and has improved to a sixth grade level.  She researched on her own the Barton Reading and Spelling System for helping people with dyslexia and uses it to tutor a young girl at her granddaughter’s school as well has her adult student.  She also volunteers her time to help write and edit two newsletters for LearningQuest along with other marketing materials for fundraising and events.

Tutor of the Year for High School Equivalency (HSE) Diploma
Barbara Arney

Barbara began volunteering at the Day Reporting Center for Probation in 2011.  Since she had previously worked with at-risk youth, she was ready to accept this challenging volunteer position.  As a retired school teacher, her extensive teaching experience gave her the skill and knowledge to help students at a more basic reading level up to those preparing for the GED test.  She rarely misses either of her two days of volunteering except for vacations.  Even on vacation, she is thinking of her students and bringing back materials she thinks will make learning more relevant. One of her students recently improved her math and writing skills by four grade levels because of Barbara’s tutoring.  Without her skill and faithfulness, the Day Reporting Center program would have struggled to help students improve.  With her assistance, the program is helping students pass the GED test.

Best effort in Literacy
Mary Mendez

Mary came from Mexico in 1994 — her sophomore year in high school.  She passed all her credits, but did not pass the writing proficiency test she needed for her diploma.  A few months ago, she got her GED, but decided she wanted more fluency in her communication in English and wanted to be able to help her daughters with their homework so they can succeed in school and in life.  She works very hard and her tutor who recommended her for this award said she does extra homework and constantly pushes herself to succeed.  She plans to go to college and pursue a career in IT

Most Improved in Literacy
Laura Rodriguez

Laura attends the literacy program at the Adult Basic Education Center where she started attending classes in December, 2013.  She is working hard to improve her reading so she can eventually pass the GED test and provide a better life for her two daughters.  On her last test, she had improved 10 points on her assessment for reading which is a significant gain.  She is close to transferring into the GED program due to her progress and hard work.  She said she learned from her father that “if you want something, you have to go get it because no one is going to hand it to you.”

Greatest Achievement in Literacy
Joan Jia

Joan came to the United States speaking some English but Mandarin was her native language.  In spite of her limitations in English, she enrolled in college courses right away but wanted to improve her English grammar and vocabulary.  She works with a tutor in our literacy program and her reading ability has improved from a 7th grade level to an 11th grade level.   She plans to become an accountant.

Best Effort in HSE Preparation
Pamela Roberson

Pamela attends classes to work on her high school diploma but is still at the stage of improving her math and reading skills.  Both have gone up over 10 points which is significant. She was at first attending classes as a requirement for probation but now attends because she wants to improve her skills.  She and her son do their homework together and she’s teaching him through her example how important education is.  The obstacles she has faced to get to the life she has now were enormous and her tutors are very proud of all she has overcome and accomplished.

Most Improved in HSE Preparation
Isela Cardenas

Isela moved alot in her life and by middle school, she was behind in her studies and dropped out.  However, she could not find a good job to help her family, so for the sake of her children, she came to LearningQuest to study for the Spanish GED test.  She didn’t know how to divide let alone do Algebra and Geometry.  She has now passed all her tests and has her diploma and a new job at Amazon.

Greatest Achievement in HSE Preparation
Laura Soto

Laura was determined to meet her educational and life goals.  First, to get her diploma which she did by attending Spanish GED classes and the extra tutoring sessions four days a week while also being tutored in English two days a week in another LearningQuest program.  She has passed the test for her diploma, is still working on her English, got her driver’s license, volunteers at her son’s school and recently got a job.

Spotlight on Family LIteracy Program

2011 family lit program 062

Family Literacy Program affects generations

Jose Bautista works in a warehouse where his supervisors and many of his coworkers speak only English. Before enrolling in ESL classes through LearningQuest’s Family Literacy program, he avoided speaking to his coworkers and supervisors so they wouldn’t know how poor his English was. With hard work and dedication—driving 1-1/2 hours to attend classes after a 10-hour workday—Jose improved his communication skills and now supervises 15 employees. He Jose has become a leader at work, with increased confidence and a strong sense of pride in his accomplishments, thanks to LearningQuest.
The Family Literacy program currently serves adult learners in Riverbank and Modesto. Recognizing that parents are a child’s first and best teacher, the program is designed for adults to help them learn or improve their English skills with the focus on learning English so they can help their children succeed in school.“Parents who attend our ESL classes are usually there for one of two reasons,” says program director Kelly Nery. “They want to learn English to better help their children with homework and communicate with their teachers, or to learn English to help them get a job or promotion.”

With poor English skills, parents are unable to help their children with homework, or even with the basic skills to help prepare them to enter school. The program provides childcare, so parents are able to bring their kids along while they attend their ESL classes. “We don’t just babysit their kids while the parents go to class, but we work with the kids and help them be prepared and be successful in the education” says Nery. “A majority of the children in our program are not enrolled in other pre-school programs, such as Head Start. For some we are the only preparation they have before entering kindergarten.”


Nery, who has been with LearningQuest since 2008, served as program  manager of the library adult literacy program, matching volunteer tutors with students for individualized instruction and coordinating training sessions for volunteer tutors. “My experience working at LearningQuest has made me realize that if you help adult students meet their goals it improves the quality of life of the whole family,” she says. As director of the Family Literacy program, Nery has been able to use her experiences to develop the program to its full potential. “Our staff members work closely together to change our students’ lives through literacy.”


Nery acknowledges that funding is sometimes a challenge. Schools don’t often devote money to adult education, so LearningQuest must secure funding through grants and donations. Uncertain funding sometimes makes it difficult to plan for the future. “At times, we have had to close a site for a time, which makes it hard when we reopen because we have to start all over again with recruitment,” says Nery.


The Family Literacy program often utilizes volunteers in the childcare program. At times, up to 100 children ages 3 to 12 have been enrolled and with only three to four staff members, volunteers are especially important to ensure a successful program. Volunteers are also utilized in the classroom to help students who are struggling and need more one-on-one attention.

Family Literacy student Laura Martinez is another individual who has benefited from the program:

When I got to this country I did not think it was necessary to speak English but things happened that made me realize just how important learning English is. For example, communicating with your children’s teachers. When I moved to Riverbank, the first thing I did was ask if there were any English classes. When they told me yes, I gave myself a goal to complete the English classes.  I did not have a car and since the classes start in the fall and go through winter, it was very difficult for me because when I started in 2007, I already had a 5 year old son who was in kindergarten, a 3 year old and a 2 month old baby. There were days when it would rain and I would think about not going to class but I would remember about that goal I had set and the promise I had made. So I would get my children ready and I would walk to class.


Martinez completed beginning, intermediate and advanced ESL classes and now volunteers in LearningQuest’s beginning ESL class, helping to teach the alphabet to students and to read and write in English.

“Some of our students have waited years in this country to begin to try and learn the language, not because they are lazy but because of fear,” says Nery. “I have learned through my students’ experiences that it is never too late to work for your dreams and that hard work pays off.”

To learn more about the Family Literacy ESL program or to volunteer, contact Program Director Kelly Nery at (209) 522-0656 ext. 114 or

Karen’s Korner tells how to get your church involved

Having been the wife and daughter of a minister, I know from personal experience that churches are filled with wonderful, caring volunteers and have classrooms where adults can be educated. Also knowing our agency is limited in its resources for buildings and staff to provide literacy and High School diploma equivalency education, I began speaking to groups from churches about beginning to offer classes as an affiliate of our program. We pledge to provide training, expertise and when possible, materials. The church is asked to pledge a person to coordinate for eight to ten hours per week. There also needs to be a beginning core group of at least five volunteers to tutor. Having tutoring available twice a week is ideal and churches need to have several classrooms for individual tutoring. Churches will also recruit new students and be assisted by LearningQuest through its website and referral of any students who would be better served in the church program. Two churches are currently providing such a program – Christ Community Church in Modesto and Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Turlock. Coming this Fall will be an application process for new churches to provide sites and three will be chosen. The application will ask for the coordinator and a core group of volunteers and the ability to have facilities with classrooms for individual and small group tutoring. Good Shepherd’s program, for example, now has 12 volunteers and 12 students meeting Monday and Thursday nights. They call the program “Learning Matters.” This program was launched one year ago and has shown great success in providing an opportunity for adults to receive individualized attention from caring and committed adults. To learn more, call me at 209-522-0656 ext. 113 or email

Family Literacy Programs bring hope through learning English

As the year comes to an end it is great to look back at all of our accomplishments from both our hardworking students and our staff that has guided them along the way. This year our Family Literacy program served 244 students in Modesto and Riverbank neighborhoods. That is 244 adult students who managed to juggle life, a job, being a parent, and improving themselves by attending our classes. Students in our program came to us because they need to improve their English language skills. A few are here to have the opportunity to get a promotion or a better job, and others do it because they want to be more involved in their children’s education and don’t have the language skills to do it. All of our students set three goals in the beginning of the year which helped our staff customize their instructional plan to cater to our student needs. Some of the goals include; learning the alphabet, sharing a book with their child, helping their children with homework, and learning how to fill out a job application.
Maria Pando, mother of five, shares that she has completed a great accomplishment with us this year. She has been in our program for a few years in hopes to gain the knowledge needed to be involved in her children’s school. She started off volunteering in the classroom and attending PTA meetings, and this year she has taken part in the school site council. She is grateful to have the confidence and skill to participate in the school site council meetings and set a good example for her kids. Many students like Maria have met goals that have been life changing thanks to our services including the 31 of our students that reported getting a job this year.
In addition to teaching our adult students English, we also served 125 of their children ages 3-12. These are the children who don’t really get that extra help at home with their homework, not because their parents don’t want to, but because they just don’t have the language skills to do it. Our childcare staff work with the children on colors, numbers, alphabet recognition, and even Spanish to English translation. The older children also work on developing their math and spelling, and completing their homework. A total of 82% of the children had gains in at least one area of their assessment test. Our goal is to help them be prepared for school when they start, and not be behind once they are enrolled in school. One of our students shared with us that her four-year-old son had no interest in practicing with her the alphabet, shapes and colors, and only wanted to watch TV or play with his toys. After completing the year with us he now finds learning fun and is more excited about starting school in the fall.

Spotlight on an employee

Isela Gutierrez is our spotlighted employee this month.  Isela is our newest instructor as well as being one of our most versatile and effective.  She came to LearningQuest having worked for many years at Parent Institute for Quality Education as an associate director.  She was accustomed to teaching adults, but not use to teaching the content for high school equivalency testing.  She worked hard and learned what she needed to know to be successful.  In her short time here, she already has just shy of eight students who have graduated (one needs to pass only one more test to graduate).

Isela is versatile because she teaches both English and Spanish GED preparation and teaches both general public and incarcerated adults.  She also teaches English to inmates in the county jail.  When she first started teaching Spanish GED she was challenged by the lack of curriculum.  There were no published materials for the new test, so she had to translate from English materials.  “I spent a lot of time on the internet researching materials that were available in Spanish but also used the videos to give me ideas of strategies to help students understand the concepts,”  she said.  She is just finishing teaching the last of four subjects and is looking forward to repeating the subjects since it won’t be as difficult to prepare this time.

Isela told about one of her students who has her same name, — Isela.  This student only finished grade school in Mexico so she had to learn all the math skills of multiplication and division up through algebra and geometry.  This student told her in the beginning she was so lost and she doubted she could ever learn it.  This student persevered, however, worked on her own, got extra help with tutoring from her instructors and recently passed all her tests for a diploma.  In the county jail, Isela had a similar student with a similar lack of skill who kept wanting to quit, but now told her he realizes he can do it, “Because of what you and Hallie (the other instructor) have taught me and the strategies you have showed me, I can now see a different path I can take for myself and my son.” Isela overcame much in her own life by moving with her parents to the United States at age 17 and starting her senior year in a country whose language she could not speak.

Isela said it has surprised her how often students come into the program and don’t believe in themselves until they start doing their homework assignments and then they realize it is possible to learn and to be successful in learning.  “If I can make a difference in even one person’s life, then that’s enough for me,” she said.



Sign On to Literacy campaign launches to raise funds

To celebrate International Literacy Day on September 9, there will be special section in the Modesto Bee with stories of our students who have succeeded in learning to read, getting their diploma and learning English.  In the center of this section filled with inspiring stories is a page with names of people and businesses who want to be recognized for their support of literacy.  For as little as a $50 donation, your name can be listed.  You can be in a level of $1000, $500, $200, $100 or $50.  Click here and then the donate now button to donate now  and have your name listed with other members of our community who believe literacy is important to a better tomorrow.  Just choose 2015 Sign On to literacy  in the drop down menu.  To see last year’s supplement, click this link.