Meet David…

David Geren is one of LearningQuest’s most recent graduates from the High School Equivalency program at the Oakdale site.  Raised in a stable family, David chose to make decisions that caused his path to intervene with time in prison.  Although he was briefly enrolled in the HSE program at LearningQuest before incarceration, he was forced to halt his educational development.  Prison allowed David time to analyze his choices and after his release, he gained full custody of his son.  As a single father wanting to give his son a better life, he grew determined to improve himself.

David said, “I used to be on drugs, I used to get incarcerated, get locked up.  I used to be in a bad relationship.  Now I’m single, went to self-help groups and I’m clean, almost been clean a year.  It’s time to get a real job, that why I’m going through the GED program.   I could work construction under the table, [but] I don’t want to do that; I’ve got a son now, I want to get benefits.  I want to have a career.”

Rejoining the HSE program and dealing with finding reliable child care, he stayed focused, “I put one foot in front of the other and showed up every day. I came ready and prepared to learn, and did my best.”

David appreciated the classroom and instructor support he received because it kept him accountable, “It’s great that the organization has a classroom with other students because by myself I don’t know if I would’ve studied.  With the teachers, they helped a lot. I passed them [tests] all on the first try.  It wasn’t because I knew everything; it was because the teachers helped me learn what I needed to learn to pass the test.”

He understood that the hard work was only temporary and that reaching his goal of getting into a trade school and finding a career was worth it, “If you get your GED there’s all kinds of doors that are more available to better your life.  It’s a big confidence builder.  A month ago I was down in the dirts, I [couldn’t] get good a job, I [didn’t] have a GED.  Now here I am with my GED and good to go onto college…ready to move forward.”

David’s advice to current and future students: “It’s possible, it’s achievable.  I’m 29 so I’ve been trying to get this for many years now, it’s not like it happened overnight.  Never give up, it’s never too late.  Keep on going.  It doesn’t take long to turn your life around.  Within a year I’ve turned my life around 100%.   Keep reaching out to people and programs out there that are there to help.  Because of the GED program…everyone in this organization who’s…been willing to help me better myself: that’s really a blessing.”



Past Struggles & New Beginnings

Meet three LearningQuest staff members who began as students and now use their personal experience to bring the best service to their students.


Kristina Miller, Michael Holson and Suzanna Holson


New Beginnings

In my years of involvement with literacy, I have been moved most by the stories of success and life change that education brings. Three of these faces are people working in our organization so they inspire me daily. Kristina Miller dreamed of being a teacher and found the calling she had been searching for. Michael Holson struggled to reach his goals at a young age, now he is able to teach those lessons in his own class. Suzanna Holson faced doubt during her studies, but now uses that to encourage students. Their stories give them the passion to help students reach their goals toward new beginnings.

Kristina Miller always knew that she wanted a different future for herself. She decided to make a change after a past full of negative role models, drugs, having her first child at a young age and needing steady employment. Kristina knew she needed to earn her high school equivalency (HSE) diploma and quickly graduated from ReadingWorks (now LearningQuest). Soon after, her childhood dream to become a teacher led to tutoring, “I absolutely loved it. I would relate to students and be able to go down to their level, making it easier for them to understand.” Kristina is now a LearningQuest Instructor with her own classroom and expectations to earn a degree after her children finish college. She believes that “the more people we can reach, the more lives we are helping. The good we do changes so many lives.”

Kristina’s fellow instructor, Michael Holson, grew up in Modesto with seven siblings. He dropped out of school, faced homelessness, alcohol, and a brief time in jail. He learned about Stanislaus Literacy Centers (now LearningQuest) from his sister, Suzanna. After Michael graduated from the HSE program, he became a tutor and made a commitment to each of his students, “Every day I would catch a bus at 6 a.m., take two buses to Turlock, then tutor from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m.” Michael worked diligently to earn an instructor position, “I studied so hard, night and day. I went in for the interview and I got the job, that was about six years ago.” Michael continues to teach because “everyone has a story, most not great, but they do have a story built on a shambled life. I want to give people the chance to do what I’ve done and continue to do. A lot of people are diamonds in the rough waiting to be found.”

As Michael’s older sister, Suzanna Holson had a similar experience growing up. She cared for her siblings, unable to return to school after eighth grade. After some years, Suzanna wanted a better life for her son, “I heard about ReadingWorks [now LearningQuest] from the Welfare program and wanted to go back to school.” After graduating from the program, she worked as a tutor helping many improve their reading skills and inspired seven other people in her family to attend LearningQuest. When Suzanna doubted her intelligence and learning ability, her teacher would continue to give encouragement instead. Now, Suzanna tells all the students, “You got this! If I could make it, then everyone can do it.” Suzanna is the Administrative Assistant at LearningQuest and taking classes online with MJC to become a guidance counselor, “I love helping people and love to see them succeed because I know the struggle. I want to help people who think they don’t have anyone there and provide the resources they need.”

Their stories are special and still so similar to those waiting for a chance to improve through literacy. Kristina, Michael and Suzanna have become advocates for helping people reach their goals by sharpening the literacy tools needed to find a job and so much more. Their hard work and dedication to each student shows that success is a goal achieved one day at a time. At LearningQuest, new beginnings are within reach for the students, making it possible for greater stories ahead.


– Karen Williams

LearningQuest – Stanislaus Literacy Centers

Executive Director