Our COVID 19 Action Plan

COVID action plan

Thank you for your patience…

while we figured out safe and creative solutions for working through this crisis.  We’ve been able to come up with and enact productive ways for students to stay in line with their educational goals and for staff to still provide services to those students.  Thank you to our students, staff, and volunteer tutors for being proactive with these necessary, and hopefully temporary, changes – we’ll see you all when things clear up.


Director’s Message

As I walked the halls this past week and spoke to staff, I saw nothing but positive teamwork.  Everyone is pulling together to successfully get students set up for online and remote learning and I’m so proud of the staff and students.  I have not been through anything like this so I have nothing to compare it to, but given the uncertainty of each day, I am grateful I can count on each of them to help out where needed.  We are working out schedules to make sure management is available via phone or email and on site, unless required otherwise. We want the students to know that we are all here for them.  We’ve really ramped up our plans for providing remote and e-communication so staff can stay connected and still keep diligently working toward our mission goals.  Things can change quickly, but above all else, be safe.  We will get through this together.
Thank you for your patience and support during this time,
Karen Williams, LearningQuest’s Executive Director

Learning Sites temporarily closed

All sites where LearningQuest services are provided have been temporarily closed to the public.  At this moment, our Literacy Tutoring office is currently still open since it is placed within the Modesto Library, but tutoring has been suspended until further notice.  We are working one day at a time as public safety announcements are being made.  Please check back often through our website or social media for updates on reopening and student services.

Continuing instruction for students

Students in the High School Equivalency (HSE) program will be able to continue their learning.  Every single HSE instructor has been assigned students to monitor and guide through assignments.  They will be able to keep in contact with each other through email, text, phone, Skype, and online educational platforms to learn and get support right away.  Classroom and in-person instruction has been moved completely online and in digital form in order to maintain progress for the students.

Orientations for HSE students are still being held, one-on-one and in person, as needed.  Adults interested in starting HSE services can contact Suzanna at 209-672-6663, sholson@lqslc.com

Staff still providing services

LearningQuest staff will continue to work limited hours on-site and remotely from home.  We have updated our communication and digital access logistics so employees will still be able to get their work done efficiently.  This will ensure that essential tasks, such as submitting important reports and being available for student calls, are accomplished in order to meet mission and student educational goals.  This means that all staff are available for you to contact if needed, click the button below for our directory.

Additional COVID 19 resources

Refer to the websites of the Center for Disease Control (CDC), Stanislaus County Health Services Agency (HSA), and California Department of Public Health for additional information on and prevention of Corona Virus.

Cherish After Graduation


Meet Cherish Medeiros…

Experiencing trauma as a toddler, Cherish was raised by her loving grandmother for ten years. After losing her grandmother to cancer, she lived with her father in a house full of drugs and alcohol. By sixth grade, she became dependent on substances, dropped out of school, and was in and out of the juvenile delinquent and foster care systems. At just 16 years old, Cherish had her first child. Ten years later and in fear of having her fourth child also taken away by CPS, she gave birth alone at home on her bed. It was this breaking point that made her realize that she needed to change her life in order to support her newborn daughter.

When Cherish enrolled at LearningQuest – it had been 15 years since she attended school and she was terrified. She struggled with anxiety, emotional outbursts in class and a defeated mindset. She said, “I had to rewire my brain. I know that my past usage of drugs and alcohol at such a young age has affected my retention of information.”

LearningQuest staff would patiently talk Cherish through those emotional struggles to get her back on track. Her confidence grew with the positive support, her panic attacks began to diminish, and she became more engaged in her assignments. She took her final test in March 2016 and passed – Cherish officially earned her diploma! At graduation, she walked the stage with joy as family and friends cheered.

Anton Lewis, her former instructor, said, “Cherish was never afraid to ask questions. As she progressed, she started answering them for herself – my instruction became just guidance. With every subject test passed, Cherish showed that hard work and dedication would make her successful at whatever she chose to do. I am constantly amazed and inspired by her accomplishments, and cannot wait to see what she will achieve next.”

Now, Cherish is a drug and alcohol counselor at Sierra Vista helping others rise above their addictions while finishing up administrative justice classes at MJC.  Cherish has kept a close bond with her father and her four daughters and has a positive outlook on life.  The next chapters planned in her story include graduating from MJC, transferring to CSU, Stanislaus, earning a Master’s in social work, and finally, working for Child Protective Services to support the families in positions similar to her own.  Cherish now gives love, support, and guidance to her clients by sharing the kindness she received at LearningQuest.

Cherish at Sierra Vista

Cherish showed that hard work and dedication would make her successful at whatever she chose to do.

Anton Lewis, Cherish’ former instructor

Impact a student like Cherish

Opera, movies, zombies, ice skating are all part of Jane Austen takeover of Modesto

See the original Modesto Bee article by Deke Farrow HERE


“Pride and Prejudice,” as a novel and as a board book, is discussed at a 244th birthday party for Jane Austen at the Modesto Library on Dec. 16, 2019.

Jane Austen’s takeover of Modesto began quietly enough this fall: An emphasis on her works by LearningQuest-Stanislaus Literacy Centers for its adult learners. A 244th birthday party for the English novelist in a downstairs room of the downtown library. An escape room, also at the library, with puzzles designed to inspire participants to read her works and learn more about her life.

Soon, though, it will take to the streets, the stage, the silver screen and even a skating rink. And it won’t be over until the slender lady sings.

It’s a Jane-vasion, with Opera Modesto and its production of the opera “Mansfield Park” at the center.

Opera Modesto board member Hillari DeSchane long has wanted to do an opera based on a work by Austen, said Roy Stevens, the company’s general and artistic director. Her wish is coming true thanks to “Mansfield Park,” a 2011 chamber opera by composer Jonathan Dove, based on Austen’s third novel, published in 1814.

Stevens said he and his opera-singer wife, Annalisa Winberg, who is Opera Modesto’s artistic consultant, saw a way to stage the work primarily using members of the company’s TOP Young Artists program. Before long, “we realized we had a potential catalyst to do something more with the community,” he said.

That “something more” ended up being the Story Into Song Literacy Initiative, for which Opera Modesto has partnered with LearningQuest, the Stanislaus County Library, the State Theatre, the Becoming Jane Austen Book Club (of which DeSchane is a member), city and county schools and the Downtown Modesto Partnership, among others.

The initiative is a great way to build excitement around literature and the arts, said library director Sarah Dentan. “We’re excited to partner with Opera Modesto to promote books and reading, as well as the arts and humanities,” she told The Bee in an email. “By offering complementary events at the library, we can extend our existing fan base, and perhaps introduce readers to storytelling through song.”

Built around the opera production Jan. 11-12 at the State, a so-called destination weekend also includes a Friday, Jan. 10, presentation by the State’s Late Night Horror Film series of the 2016 movie “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies,” preceded by a zombie walk costume parade across the theater’s stage. The next evening will bring a screening by the Book to Film Club of 1940’s “Pride and Prejudice” starring Laurence Olivier, preceded by a lecture/discussion led by Arnold Schmidt, a professor of English at Stanislaus State.

A Jane Austen convention, called Jane Con, will include activities both that Saturday and Sunday. Among the first day’s events are a Regency Period arcade of “unique, artisanal, handcrafted or locally sourced gifts” on the library portico, an All Things Jane information session inside, and the lectures/workshops “Gowns and Groans: A Costumer Looks at Regency Costumes on Film and Stage,” “ Defining the Definitive Darcy,” “Starting Your Own JA Book Club” and Dressing the Regency Lady.”

The second day will bring Regency dance lessons, “No Sweat, No Debt Costumes: Regency on a Budget” and “Bonnets on a Budget,” which require a materials fee.

At the close of the weekend will be a special Jane Austen On Ice session at the Modesto on Ice outdoor skating rink downtown. Those dressed in Regency attire will receive a discount.

For information on Jane Con registration, costs and more, go to www.modestojanecon.com, call 209-523-6426 or email admin@modestojanecon.com.


Photo booth props are displayed at a 244th birthday party for Jane Austen at the Modesto Library on Dec. 16, 2019.


The public performances of “Mansfield Park” are at 2 p.m. both days at the State, with fun events during each intermission. Saturday’s will be a Regency costume parade and contest, and Sunday will be a Jane Austen game show with the audience.

Directing the show is Carolina Stevens, daughter of Stevens and Winberg. She promises that while opera can feel very slow and drawn out, Dove’s work is fast-paced and exciting. Conceived as a touring production, it eschews big sets for minimalism. At the State, the director will make use of the movie screen and employ rolling furniture and other small set pieces.

“As the composer makes the scenes move and change, she’s got the same thing happening, with footmen moving people around the stage, and it’s really quite lovely,” Roy Stevens said.

Carolina Stevens added that not being able to use traditional sets and set changes began as a challenge and ended up a benefit, helping to create a more “dynamic” show.

The 23-year-old director said Austen — whose works also include “Emma” and “Sense and Sensibility” — wrote very interesting characters, especially her female ones. They are fleshed out, strong and thoughtful, especially for the author’s time period, Stevens said, and people still draw inspiration from them.

“I think that’s part of why she’s taught in schools, is that we still can connect to the type of people she writes, to the type of struggles they have,” she said. “We connect to their emotional lives. We connect to trying to figure out your way in the world.”

“Mansfield Park,” about heroine Fanny Price and other young people trying to work their way out of difficult situations and find freedom in various forms, also is quite funny, Carolina Stevens said. She noted that Austen is known for writing evil aunts, “and this has the most evil aunt of them all, Aunt Norris.” Mrs. Norris, the unpleasant feline pet of Hogwarts caretaker Argus Filch in the Harry Potter books and movies, was named for the Austen character, Stevens noted.

Opera Modesto’s production is the U.S. premiere of Dove’s orchestrated version of “Mansfield Park.” Because it’s primarily a touring opera, Dove’s original music was for “four hands,” meaning two players on one piano, Roy Stevens said. But the show at the State will have a chamber orchestra in front of the stage.

On stage are just 10 singers, he said, seven of them from the Young Artists Program, which includes some of the region’s best teen talent and regional/national emerging young professionals.

In addition to the public performances, Opera Modesto will stage “Mansfield Park” twice more as shows for readers selected by schoolteachers and LearningQuest tutors. These will be audience members who have prepared and come familiar with the story and interested, Roy Stevens said.


LearningQuest Executive Director Karen Williams praised the Story Into Song Literacy Initiative as a creative way of introducing readers of all ages to classical literature.

“We are honored to have a partnership with Opera Modesto in order to provide an enriching experience of literacy for our adult learners,” she told The Bee in an email. “LearningQuest will have a booth at Jane Con to inform the community about our free educational services, and we hope that the spirit of Jane Con, ‘Mansfield Park’ and SISLI inspires the readers in our community to become volunteer tutors and teach other adults how to read.”

Opera Modesto intends its “Mansfield Park” production to be just the first piece of an ongoing Story Into Song program. The second year, said Roy Stevens, will be based on two famous Spanish and Spanglish novels and two one-act operas based on them: Cervantes’ “Don Quixote de La Mancha” and Anaya’s “Bless Me, Ultima.” The literacy initiative will be focused even more on the Spanish-speaking part of the community, with “many new and developing partnerships and collaborations with Latino businesses and organizations,” he said.

Looking toward Year Three, the Opera Modesto director said it probably will be based on something by Edgar Allen Poe.

LearningQuest’s Williams said the initiative is different and important because it involves a regional effort by teachers, professors, administrators, librarians, volunteers and more, representing collaborative partnerships with an educational and literacy focus.

“Knowing this is something that will continue in future years with other works of literature, I believe this idea will grow over time,” she said. “This year is the infancy of what I believe will soon become a mature project with even more impact as it evolves.”

To learn more, visit www.operamodesto.org.

LearningQuest literacy center programs draw kids into helping parents’ ESL progress

See the original Modesto Bee article by Deke Farrow HERE


Rosa Cisneros looks through a workbook during her LearningQuest ESL night class at Eisenhut Elementary School in Modesto, Calif., on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019.  AALFARO@MODBEE.COM

Eisenhut Elementary School fifth-grader Jeanette Cisneros has a straightforward way of helping her mom, Rosa, improve her English language skills.

“Sometimes I don’t understand some Spanish, so I just tell her, ‘Speak English,’ and that helps her,” the child said. Her blunt comment drew laughs from her mom and Karen Williams, executive director of LearningQuest-Stanislaus Literacy Centers, as the three sat at a cafeteria at the north Modesto school one recent evening.

Every occasion to speak English does help Rosa Cisneros, who more than 15 years ago immigrated to the U.S. from Peru with her parents and little brother. Just 15 then, she was thrust into high school, where she struggled to improve her language skills.

“It was really hard for me,” she said as she waited for her LearningQuest ESL night class to begin at Eisenhut, and Jeanette and her brother, Daniel, took part in the Kids Club offered for children of the English-as-a-second-language students. “But with the passage of years, I just get a job and my English started coming out.

“And now my kids help me a lot because they only want to speak English at home. It’s hard for them to speak Spanish at home.


Jeanette Cisneros, 10, participates in Kids Club, for children of English-as-a-second-language students, during her mother’s at LearningQuest ESL night class at Eisenhut Elementary School in Modesto, Calif., on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019. ANDY ALFARO AALFARO@MODBEE.COM


Daniel Cisneros, 5, participates in Kids Club, for children of English-as-a-second-language students, during her mother’s at LearningQuest ESL night class at Eisenhut Elementary School in Modesto, Calif., on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019. ANDY ALFARO AALFARO@MODBEE.COM

Living in the home are Cisneros and the kids, her parents and her Chicago-born husband, Daniel, who’s of Mexican heritage and speaks both English and Spanish fluently. Cisneros’ parents are Spanish speakers, but her mom has joined Rosa and the children in LearningQuest’s family literacy/ESL classes for three years.

The classes work with parents on English skills and also are structured to provide the children with additional support in English reading and writing skills, Williams said. Parents receive books throughout the year to form a home library, attend library events and are issued a library card to encourage attendance at story times and checking out books for the family.

“Rosa has also participated in our PACT (Parent and Child Together) programs the last two years,” Williams said. “These programs are an additional four weeks a year of demonstrating learning activities parents can do with their children in the home by having parents and their children learning in class together.”

PACT themes have included:

  • Art — paper lanterns, canvas art and dream catchers, growing a garden

  • History — dinosaurs, ancient civilizations, medieval times

  • Science — creating slime, ice cream, crystals

  • Safety — water safety, stranger danger, community leaders (firefighters and police officers)

Jeanette recalled that one fun activity was creating “elephant toothpaste,” the rapidly expanding, foamy result of combining warm water and yeast with hydrogen peroxide, food coloring and liquid dish soap.

PACT teaches parents that not having strong language skills doesn’t have to be a barrier to helping their children learn, Williams said. “We show them you can be a teacher of your children, and here’s how.”

Cisneros is one of LearningQuest’s highest-scoring ESL students, Williams said. When she entered the program, she tested at a “high intermediate” level and has since increased two levels, now testing at the highest.

She’s passed all objective tests, performing certain tasks such as:

  • Communicating with health care professionals — asking questions during an examination, or about medicine prescriptions, and scheduling an appointment with a doctor.
  • Interacting with the school system — communicating with the school office about a child’s absence, asking questions at a parent/teacher conference, and being involved as a volunteer at school.

Jeanette has seen great improvement in her mom’s communication skills. “When I was younger, she tried to talk English but mostly spoke Spanish.” That usually left the girl to turn only to her father for homework help. “Little by little, she’s gotten to speak more English, and I can understand her now.”

What Cisneros primarily gets from her ESL classes now is help to improve her writing. She took college courses for a couple of years, she said, but was hampered by her poor writing skills.

The 31-year-old, who works full time in fast food in addition to being a parent and student, said she realizes that improving her writing will be key in finding success in college and a career. She recommends LearningQuest to others like herself because “most people don’t want to stay in one place, they want to grow in job and life and give more opportunities to themselves and their kids.”

She wishes she could get more ESL instruction than her two-hour classes twice a week. “We hear a lot of that: ‘Can we get four days?’” Williams said.

But LearningQuest, which according to its website gets 88 percent of its funding from government grants and contracts for service, can’t meet existing demand. There’s a waiting list of more than 100 people who want to take classes, but services have been capped because of the staffing level, Williams said.


Rosa Cisneros prepares for her LearningQuest ESL night class as instructor Mark Lawicki looks on at Eisenhut Elementary School in Modesto, Calif., on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019.  AALFARO@MODBEE.COM

Donations will be crucial to the organization’s ability to thrive. Its site says the goal is to “continue to increase funding from donations by 4 percent per year until at least half of all income is from donations.”

Monetary contributions can be made through The Bee’s Book of Dreams, and LearningQuest also has a need for volunteer tutors and book donations. It just ended a holiday book drive, but “we take books all the time,” Williams said. “We give books to the kids because a good predictor of how well they will do in school is how many books are in the home.”

To learn more about LearningQuest-Stanislaus Literacy Centers, go to lqslc.com.


Our Featured Agencies

Nov. 10: 2018 donations make an impact

Nov. 17: Jessica’s House, Turlock

Nov. 24: Center for Human Services (Pathways), Stanislaus County

Dec. 1: Cricket’s Hope, Modesto

Dec. 8: Haven Youth Center, Modesto

Dec. 15: LearningQuest, Modesto

A list of 2019 contributors. To donate online, go to www.modbee.com/donate2bod

Give the Gift of Literacy for the Holidays!

LearningQuest students, Beverly Hardee, Karla Flores and Beatriz Gonzalez, are all mothers wanting to reach their educational goals in order to support and become role models for their children.

Beatriz Gonzalez & daughter Vannia Jaybeth Barrios - ESL

Beatriz Gonzalez is learning English and also earning her High School Equivalency (HSE) diploma at LearningQuest.  She said, “I decided to focus on my education for my kids because I want to be able to communicate with the teachers at school and also teach my kids how to read and write.  I want my children to know the importance of education.”

Growing up in Mexicali, Mexico, Beatriz worked from 9 am to 9 pm and still did not make enough to financially support her family or even have enough time left in the day to spend with them.  Beatriz said, “In Mexico, you need to have a good job because education is expensive.”  In the U.S., adults with parents without a high school diploma earn a lower income (less than $28,000 a year) than those whose parents have a high school or college diploma.*

Gaining independence as an English speaker and role model for her children, Beatriz said, “My child knows English and I’ll depend on him to translate for me, but he is not always going to be there for me.  I had to learn for myself.”  Now, instead of asking for a Spanish speaker at stores, Beatriz has the confidence to communicate in English.  “I want to set an example for my children.  I want to teach them that if you set goals and you work hard, anything is possible.

Beverly Hardee

Beverly Hardee, smiling brightly under the spotlights, nervously approached the podium at her graduation ceremony this past October to share her story with the audience.  As Valedictorian, she was able to reach her goal of earning a diploma – and then some.  Beverly dropped out of school after 8th grade and it took years for her to get back on track, she said, “I realized after a while that I had chosen the wrong path in life, but thought it was too late for me.”

Her case worker showed her that LearningQuest was a free option for her to earn her diploma.  However, shortly after enrolling, Beverly became homeless.  She and her family lived in their car for most of the scorching Central Valley summer.  Beverly was still determined to go to class, she said, “I wanted more, not only for myself, but for my children.  That was no life for them and I wasn’t setting the example I wanted them to follow.  It was time for me to find my path.

After spending every spare moment studying books that barely made sense to her, focusing hard in class, and learning from instructors, she graduated!  Beverly is enrolled in Administration of Justice classes for the spring at MJC.  With research showing that adults with college educated parents score almost 60 points higher than adults whose parents had no high school experience,* Beverly is doing her part to set her children up for success.

Karla Flores and Tutor, Janette

Karla Flores is learning how to read and write in LearningQuest’s Literacy Tutoring program.  She was born in Guadalajara, Jalisco where access to resources and education is limited.  Karla said, “Life in Mexico is very beautiful, the people are nice, the food is delicious, but the economy is very different than in the United States.”  When she arrived in the U.S., Karla knew that her next chapter would begin when she could confidently read and write in English.

“The need to have a better chance at a better job” is a priority in order to support her family.  Karla said, “To know is power in all aspects.  When a person has more knowledge, it is easier to have a better job opportunity, a better salary, and a better work environment.”  We have seen that adults with high school educated parents are 11% more likely to be employed than an adult with a parent that has had no high school experience.*

She aims to learn more every day from her volunteer tutor, Janette, in order to sharpen her reading and writing skills – all in hopes of finding a better job to provide for her children.

*Literacy data provided by the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) and the American Institutes for Research (AIR).  Learn more about adult literacy competencies at bit.ly/piaacproject

To learn more about LearningQuest’s Literacy for the Holidays campaign, click the button below or visit www.LQSLC.com/holidays

Giving Tree Book Drive Brings Literacy Home for Children of Adult Learners

The first annual Giving Tree Book Drive, hosted by LearningQuest – Stanislaus Literacy Centers, invites community members to visit a Giving Tree site to pick up a tag and donate two to three new books for the child of a LearningQuest student – an adult learner working toward their educational goals.  Over 100 children have been signed up to receive the donated books in order to start or add to their home libraries.  The book drive ends on Dec. 12th, just in time for students to bring the books home for their children during the holidays and continue the foundation of literacy in the family.

Giving Tree - Modesto 1

Giving Tree Sites

LearningQuest Learning Center

1032 11th St., Modesto, CA 95354

Katelynn Library

Stanislaus County Library

1500 I St., Modesto, CA 95354

Giving Tree - Turlock 2

Turlock Learning Center

1570 Fulkerth Rd., Turlock, CA 95380

The Giving Tree Book Drive was inspired by the many parents enrolled in LearningQuest’s free educational services and the growing research showing the impact of a parent’s education level on the literacy and employment of their child as an adult.  Earning a diploma, learning English, or learning how to read and write holds an even greater responsibility when statistics* show:

  • About 50% of young adults will reach the same level of education as their parents.
  • Adults with high school educated parents are 11% more likely to be employed than an adult with a parent that did not graduate from high school.
  • In the U.S., adults with parents without a high school diploma earn a lower income (less than $28,000 a year) than those whose parents have a high school or college diploma.

“The Giving Tree Book Drive is the first phase of the annual Literacy for the Holidays fundraiser where checking “Literacy” off a student’s wish list is made possible due to the contributions of those advocating for education in the community.,”  Karen Williams, Executive Director, said.  “Keeping LearningQuest services free to access removes one large barrier for many hopeful adults and gives them a real gift for the holidays – the ability to do things often taken for granted, such as read a book to their child, ask a question in English, or apply for a better job.“

*Literacy data provided by the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) and the American Institutes for Research (AIR).  Learn more about adult literacy competencies at bit.ly/piaacproject

To learn more about LearningQuest’s Giving Tree Book Drive, click on the bottom below or visit www.LQSLC.com/givingtree

LQ is a featured agency for the Bee’s 2019 Book of Dreams Fundraiser!

[Written by Brian Clark, Editor of the Modesto Bee, and Marian Kaanon, CEO of the Stanislaus Community Foundation.  Read original article HERE]

Dear Readers,

Today kicks off our annual holiday fundraising drive — A Book of Dreams.

Since 1990, The Bee, along with its generous donors, have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to help Modesto-area agencies and individuals in need. Over the last several years, The Bee has partnered with the Stanislaus Community Foundation.

Last year, thanks to you and the Stanislaus Community Foundation, we raised a record $82,000, which was divided among seven agencies whose missions centered largely on offering shelter, food and hope to the homeless.

Among our journalism goals this year has been to focus on coverage of children’s issues, which we have accomplished with our grant-funded reporter, ChrisAnna Mink. It only seemed appropriate that our 2019 Book of Dreams would center on agencies that help children — a population that’s among the most vulnerable in our community.

We received a wonderful early contribution — a $5,000 matching gift from the Porges family. Norm and son Evan Porges, the former owners of Prime Shine Car Wash, are known throughout the area for giving back to the community via the Porges Family Foundation.

Over the next several weeks, we hope you enjoy learning more about the program and this year’s organizations, the important work they do and the people they help. And, of course, we hope you are moved to give to A Book of Dreams. It’s a great way to honor or remember a loved one, or just to help some amazing people with the good work they do.

Each week, we will print the list of contributors — unless you prefer to remain anonymous — and the name of someone in whose honor or memory the gift is given. If you have donated during the past, thank you so very much. If you are new to A Book of Dreams, welcome! And we hope you and your family have a healthy and joyous holiday season.

Brian Clark

Editor, The Modesto Bee

Marian Kaanon

CEO, Stanislaus Community Foundation


Nov. 10: 2018 donations make an impact

Nov. 17: Jessica’s House, Turlock

Nov. 24: Center for Human Services, Stanislaus County

Dec. 1: Cricket’s Hope, Oakdale

Dec. 8: Haven Youth Center, Modesto

Dec. 15: LearningQuest, Modesto

To donate online, go to www.modbee.com/donate2bod

LearningQuest offering first youth program, KidsQuest, to help kids with dyslexia

Javana Reading


OCTOBER 10, 2019 12:16 PM, UPDATED OCTOBER 10, 2019 03:56 PM

(Read the full article and see full video here: https://www.modbee.com/living/health-fitness/article235839977.html?fbclid=IwAR0bxFJlVDdi3zQoxt9ry0vX6s7hmK4FltYoJUzO5FBnEzLBAaD4tpX98Vo)

Learn more about KidsQuest 

Javana Veras remembers pretending to read chapter books in second grade so she could sit on the beloved reading bench with her friends.

“They were reading chapter books, and I was still reading baby books,” the now-13-year-old said.

She didn’t know dyslexia was the root of her reading challenges, but she knew she wanted to fit in.

Dyslexia is more than a reading difficulty — it’s a brain disorder. Often, children’s struggles go unrecognized. LearningQuest is starting a pilot program, KidsQuest, to identify children with dyslexia and provide prompt help.

“We’re introducing this new program to help kids with dyslexia get some help with tutoring,” said Karen Williams, executive director of LearningQuest, which has an office in downtown Modesto.

She said the program provides individual, intensive tutoring some families couldn’t afford otherwise. The tutoring adds to services provided by schools.

LearningQuest is a nonprofit organization that traditionally has offered literacy programs for adults in Stanislaus County. KidsQuest is its first program specifically for children, and all staff are volunteers.

Starting KidsQuest in October is perfect timing because it’s Dyslexia Awareness Month. Worldwide this month, dyslexia organizations try to promote understanding of the disorder and rally support for affected individuals.

KidsQuest is open to children in second through sixth grades. To enroll, students must undergo screening at LearningQuest using a formal evaluation process to document that they have dyslexia.

The next screening session will be held at LearningQuest’s Modesto office on Saturday.

“Additional support for screening was provided by SLD, Specific Learning Disability, Foundation,” said Denise Nordell, coordinator for KidsQuest.

Nordell said Specific Learning Disability, a local foundation, was underwriting some of the costs of screenings because it felt KidsQuest would be a valuable community resource. The Friends of the Modesto Library also contributed to help defray the costs.

KidsQuest is free to students who qualify with the screening. The tutoring program includes twice-weekly sessions at the Stanislaus County Library in Modesto, a longstanding partner with LearningQuest.



Dyslexia is not a problem of switching letters or a sign of low intelligence. It’s a phonological processing disorder and the cause is not known. Genetics is a factor — Javana’s father and one of her three brothers also have dyslexia.

“A phonological processing disorder means that a child can’t know the way sounds are put together to understand the words,” said Williams.

Differentiating the individual components of sounds is difficult for dyslexics. For example, “cap” and “cab” may sound the same. This makes it hard to tell syllables, sound out words and build words into sentences.

Researchers have learned that people with dyslexia use different parts of their brain to process language, both verbal and written, compared to traditional learners.

Dyslexia affects about 1 in 10 people. No data about rates of dyslexia for Stanislaus County are available; however, two-thirds of county third graders are not reading at grade level, according to kidsdata.org from The Lucille Packard Foundation.

“Usually around third grade, if children are having challenges with chapter books, we encourage (parents) to check with the school for testing and to see if they have resources,” said Amber O’Brien-VerHulst, librarian at Stanislaus County Library’s Modesto Branch.

The library offers support for children struggling to read, such as audiobooks paired with physical books and books for beginning readers that emphasize phonics for learning syllable sounds.

“We assess for dyslexia and all other possible learning disabilities,” said Mariza Herroz, school psychologist for Stanislaus County Office of Education. She said comprehensive testing, including phonological skills, can be done as early as kindergarten. However, she said parents should remember that some letter reversal is normal at that age.

Early intervention for dyslexia, as well as other learning disabilities, matter. Students with reading difficulties at third grade are less likely to graduate from high school, according to research from the Annie E Casey Foundation.

But it’s never too late to learn reading.



“The teacher said when it came time for language arts and learning sounds, (Javana) hid under her desk,” said Jennifer Veras, her mother. Otherwise, she described Javana as a curious, bright preschooler, who excelled in math and socializing. She said Javana has always had friends and has not been a victim of bullying, which often happens to kids with learning differences.

During second grade, Javana’s parents paid for her to have private testing. She was diagnosed with dyslexia, but they couldn’t find a place to get help. One expert suggested Veras get training and tutor Javana herself, which she did.

Veras chose training in Barton Reading and Spelling System, which is a structured literacy system with proven success, and it is approved by the California Department of Education. Barton is the system being used in KidsQuest.

Structured literacy programs have specific steps that incorporate the use of phonics, which involves matching sounds with symbols or written letters.

After three months using the program, Javana’s school testing showed that she had gained a full year in reading and language skills. Because of her hard work, she received the second grade class award for perseverance. She completed five years of Barton training.

“I don’t like reading much, but I can read,” said Javana. She is home-schooled and reading at eighth-grade level. Her advice to other kids: “Don’t compare yourself to others. Compare yourself to how you were yesterday.”

“For parents, trust your intuition,” said Veras. “If you think something is wrong, look for answers.”

Veras is co-leader of the Central Valley dyslexia parent support group and regional director of Decoding Dyslexia California. She said she is active in these organizations to help other families find resources that were so hard for her to find.

“The structured literacy tutoring fees totaled $10,000 over five years,” said Veras, “The KidsQuest program is a gift to our community. It can be life changing for many dyslexic students in our area, especially for those whose parents can’t afford tutoring.

KidsQuest is still recruiting volunteer tutors — no experience needed, and training will be provided. More information can be found at https://lqslc.com/kidsquest.

This story was produced with financial support from The Stanislaus County Office of Education and the Stanislaus Community Foundation, along with the GroundTruth Project’s Report for America initiative. The Modesto Bee maintains full editorial control of this work.


Consider dyslexia, if a child has problems:

Memorizing their address, the alphabet or multiplication tables

Learning to tie their shoes

Writing some letters or numbers backwards past first grade

Learning to tell time on a clock with hands

Telling left from right.

Confusing letter pairs such as b-d, b-p, p-q, or g-j.

Saying sounds in the right order in multi-syllable words such as animal, spaghetti, hamburger, consonant.

Learn more about KidsQuest 

Modesto program lauds 74 who took a different path with high school

Beverly Hardee Interview

Modesto program lauds 74 who took a different path with high school‌


OCTOBER 19, 2019 03:26 PM, UPDATED OCTOBER 19, 2019 03:27 PM

See the article and watch the full interview video here: http://bit.ly/modbee19grad


Another 74 people now have High School Equivalency certificates thanks to LearningQuest of Modesto.

They received them at a Friday evening ceremony in the Modesto High School auditorium, borrowed for the occasion by the downtown-based program.

They spent about six months on studies that, for various reasons, they could not complete as teenagers. Three of them were recognized for exceptional work.

Jillian Cody, 37, of Oakdale received the Best Effort award. She was homeless off and on and addicted to methamphetamine before finding LearningQuest.

“It’s been a 20-year process of getting my (certificate),” Cody said before the ceremony. “I’m more on the right path now than I have ever been in my life.”

She plans to enroll next spring at Modesto Junior College and become a drug and alcohol counselor. She has a 10-year-old son, Cameron.

Heddi Jameson, 32, of Modesto won the Most Improved award. She had struggled for years in school, then found through LearningQuest that she has dysgraphia, which affects writing skills.

“I just wasn’t grasping writing and spelling,” Jameson said. She does have a knack for seeing how things work and would like to study mechanical engineering, especially robotics.

“I always loved mechanics, electronics, taking things apart,” she said.

Beverly Hardee, 29, of Modesto got the Greatest Achievement award and was the class valedictorian. She entered LearningQuest soon after becoming homeless with sons Sean, 11, and Ronnie, 8.

Hardee got the OK to nearly double her studies to 22 hours per week so she could finish faster. She now has a home and plans to study administration of justice at MJC. She is thinking of working in corrections.

LearningQuest presented its Extraordinary Volunteer award to John Comer, 87. He has tutored there for 19 years after retiring as a graphic artist at the Crown Zellerbach paper company.

The high school certificate program is one of several at LearningQuest, also known as Stanislaus Literacy Centers. Last year, it provided free or low-cost instruction to nearly 1,200 adults in reading, writing, math and English.

LearningQuest recently launched its first children’s program, for kids with dyslexia.


See the article and watch the interview video here: http://bit.ly/modbee19grad


Record Breaking Graduation!

2019 grads

We have reached the highest number of graduates at one time thanks to all the hard work of our students, the staff who guided them and those in the community that believed in them.  These adult learners took the tests needed to finally earn their diploma and they got to enjoy the spotlight as they waltzed across the stage in front of ecstatic friends and family in the audience.  Congratulations to the 2019 Spring LearningQuest graduates!  We are all so proud of you and cannot wait to hear about what you accomplish next.


LearningQuest students graduated between August 24, 2018 – May 2, 2019


Grads returned to walk the stage during the ceremony


Friends, family, staff, volunteers shared the moment

These organizations partnered with us to bring together another once-in-a-lifetime event for the graduates and helped us continue to provide free high quality education for our students:

Sutter Health

Valley Farm Supply Stores

Paleteria La Michoacana


F&M Bank

Hilmar Cheese Company

Law Offices of Tom Hogan

Modesto Irrigation District

Oak Valley Community Bank

VBC Bottling Co.

 See graduation photos HERE

Award Winners

Amy Romero

Amy Romero

Awarded “Best Effort” for the extraordinary effort of overcoming challenges and committing to long-term educational goals.

Started with LearningQuest: Oct 2018

Became a graduate: Jan 2019

Favorite subject: Math

Words of wisdom: “Don’t give up, you’re worth it.  Shoot for the stars.”


Erin Boonstra

Awarded “Most Improved” for extraordinary improvement in skills needed for a diploma as the result of hard work, perseverance, commitment, and focus.

Started with LearningQuest: Sep 2016

Became a graduate: May 2019


Destiny Brown

Destiny Brown


Awarded “Greatest Achievement” for the overall extraordinary effort in pursuing education, achieving goals, and inspiring future graduates.

Started with LearningQuest: Jan 2019

Became a graduate: Feb 2019

Favorite subject: Social Studies

Words of wisdom: “Just keep trying! Even though it may be hard we are capable of things we never thought we could do.”

Graduate Speakers

Scotty Clark

Scotty Clark

Started with LearningQuest: Oct 2018

Became a graduate: Jan 2019

Speech excerpt: “I hadn’t been to school since the fifth grade.  I quit going to school in the fifth grade and started doing construction. I heard the voice in the back of my mind and it said, ‘Ric you don’t think too good cause I couldn’t answer not one of those questions.’ So I just put it [book] aside and thought, ‘There’s no way I could do this.'”


Alvaro Martinez

Started with LearningQuest: Sep 2017

Became a graduate: Dec 2018

Favorite subject: Math

Words of wisdom: “Que sigan sus sueños por que ellos tubieron el sueño de tener su diploma asi que tienen que cumplirlo si se puede no importa el tiempo pero si se puede lograr gracias a todo el personal de LearningQuest.” [That they follow their dreams because they had the dream of having their diploma so they have to fulfill it if it can be done no matter the time but it can be achieved thanks to all the LearningQuest staff.]


Bethany Saint-Smith

Started with LearningQuest: Dec 2018

Became a graduate: Jan 2019

Favorite subject: Writing

Words of wisdom: “Choosing to do great with what you have is how you become the best version of yourself, if you take your skills, apply your learning, take time to comprehend and ask for help, you will succeed.  If you want the good life, make it.”

VIP Guests

LQ Staff