In his own words…
Manuel Maciel tells his story of the impact of learning to read. He is currently being tutored in our library literacy program by George King who volunteers his time to teach him reading. Manuel was asked to tell his story at Awards Night where he was honored with the award for Most Improved in Literacy and again at the September Modesto City Council meeting.
“My name is Manuel Maciel. I was born in northern Africa in 1966 and stayed there until I was seven years old. We moved to Portugal and then the Azores Islands and then to the United States, all during 1974. I spoke an African dialect and Portuguese but no English.
I started school in this country in Modesto in the third grade. I picked up spoken English within one year but struggled with reading and writing because my family moved many times.
I was placed in special education immediately because I was behind in reading and writing. I remained in special education classes until the beginning of my senior year of high school when I dropped out to work full time at a dairy. In spite of being in school for nine years I never learned to read and write.
I spent time working for Campbell Soup in Modesto for almost five years, but most of my full-time work was in agriculture.
I was able to get by without reading and writing because my relatives would do any paperwork I needed done.
I finally made the decision to learn to read and write because I couldn’t get a job without those skills, and I had a three year old daughter. I turned to the county for assistance and they wanted to place me in a work program. But when they found out I couldn’t read or write they put me into this literacy program.
At first I attended because I had to but when I started to learn to read and could read to my little girl I began to put more time and energy into my studies. Now I can use a computer, text on my phone, read to my daughter and learn subjects like history and science. My latest test showed that I am now reading at the sixth grade level and I am now focusing my goal on getting my GED.
LearningQuest gave me a second chance to be a better parent to my daughter because I can now help her as she goes through school and once I get my GED I know I can use my mechanical skills with my diploma to get a good job.”
– Manuel Maciel
Meet Elijah Bixby…
Elijah Bixby found a new way of reaching a goal that helped him learn more about himself and move onward without skipping a beat. Even though his family split up when he was in second grade, Elijah still had a very supportive upbringing in Ceres, California with plans to finish school just like any other child. However, by seventh grade and with his motivation at an all-time low, his normal days of school ended.
Elijah said, “I was an outcast at school. One day I was walking out of class when a guy ran up, punched me in the face, and chased me down the halls. I was always told as a kid not to be violent, so I am super pacifistic. After that, I was still trying to do good in school, but because the kid got suspended his friends decided it was my fault and were going to jump me. At that point, I was pulled out. I was always taught to try my best in school, but there was a long while where I stopped caring because of all the pressures I had.”
“Just keep going at it. It can be really rough at times and feel almost impossible, you just have to give it your all no matter how difficult it may see.”
– Elijah Bixby, 2020 Grad
Elijah enrolled in online classes at Connections Academy until he was in 11th grade. He found a supportive group of friends that helped him find the confidence to take another shot. He said, “ I was able to grow more and because of that, I wanted to finish off my education at a real high school – so I went back! Unfortunately, it was at the beginning of 2020 when COVID happened so it didn’t last for long.” Elijah found out that the credits transferred weren’t enough to earn his diploma which would mean taking even more time to graduate. In fear of being left behind as a “Super Senior” he came across another option.
A friend’s father mentioned a GED as another way of finishing high school and, after speaking with his mother about it, learned that a family friend had success at LearningQuest. Elijah said, “I didn’t really know what to expect to be honest, I just knew this was a different method of getting my education and I really enjoyed it.” Already in the school routine and motivated to work hard, Elijah started LearningQuest classes at the end of July 2020 and in only three short months earned his diploma!
With plans to begin classes at Modesto Junior College in the Spring of 2021, Elijah is considering studying Music or Psychology, “I am just really interested in the idea of helping people. I think having the resources there is important. I know it really helped me a lot so I want to be there to help other people. I plan to start applying for a job [and] becoming more independent. I would like to support my mom. We’ve never lived in a house that we owned and if I could help her in getting a house, I would like to, especially for my younger siblings. I really would like to help them because they have helped me throughout my life.
Elijah shared advice for fellow students and thoughts to those who helped him achieve his goal, “Just keep going at it. It can be really rough at times and feel almost impossible, you just have to give it your all no matter how difficult it may seem. I might be a younger student, but it’s really nice to see how supportive LearningQuest is, especially for adults who are going back to get their diploma. Thanks to everyone’s support. I had the motivation and determination to make it this far so I’ll make sure to go even further for everyone.”
Checking “Literacy” off a student’s wish list!
2020 Fundraising Results
Giving the Gift of “Literacy”
Every holiday season, many of us think of ways to give to the those who matter to us and those who need it most. We believe that the greatest gift is the chance to change a life. At LearningQuest, we’ve found that being able to impact someone’s life by helping them reach their literacy goals is a gift that last far beyond the holidays.
What “literacy” really means to someone
Literacy for our students means more than just reading and writing. It means that they’re able to engage in their world like they never were capable of before. You’ve helped to make these things possible:
- Reading medicine labels
- Helping their child with homework
- Getting their drivers license
- Signing up for a library card
- Reading a newspaper
- Earn their diploma and more!
Impacting real students
Laura Mendoza, an Adult Literacy student, relies on the tutoring to help her reading and writing as well as create a better life for her son… (Read the rest of Laura’s story HERE)
“Someone told me that if you don’t try, you will never learn.
You have to try, maybe you are going to make mistakes, but you are going to learn.”
LQ Library Tutoring Student
With your help, we were able to just surpass our $25,000 fundraising goal. $27,129 will provide necessary funding for classroom materials, instruction, course books, student supplies, and more.
You also helped meet the LQ Board MATCH of $3,050!
Message from the Director
It is so heartwarming to have you, our donors, respond so generously to provide the support we need for our literacy program and to give the gift of reading. I know many of you enjoy reading for enrichment of your mind and your soul, and you have now given that opportunity to our students. While this Covid19 world we live in tends to make us feel more alone, your generosity showed we are not. We have people like you who care deeply about this work and want others to have the educational foundation that has made your life richer. You are partners with us in the work of bringing hope through education and we value and appreciate your friendship. Thank you so much and happy new year!
– Karen Williams
LearningQuest – Stanislaus Literacy Centers
Thank you for your support!
For questions or more info, contact:
Rochele Roura-Foster, Program Director of Development & Communication
Laura Mendoza moved to the U.S. when she was 25 to escape the dangers of living in Mexico in hope of finding a better life. When she arrived in California she realized that many people already spoke Spanish, but she says, “I like to learn and since I came here, I felt I had to learn the language. I also have my son who is four years old. I want to help prepare him for school and I want to be a part of his education, but how can I help him if I am not good at reading or writing in English?”
Laura enrolled in English as a Second Language (ESL) classes with us and completed the program when she was able to comfortably and confidently speak English. She was finally ready to work on the next items on her list: reading and writing!
She was having trouble getting help at home, “My mom and my partner do not speak English so it is hard for me to learn. I can understand a lot, but I don’t have someone there to practice.” This brought Laura to our Adult Literacy program where she is now able to have one-on-one reading and writing tutoring after completing goals in her ESL classes, “I think to me it is easier to learn to read because of learning to speak English. They taught us to learn the alphabet first and that has helped me to learn to read.”
“Someone told me that if you don’t try, you will never learn…maybe you are going to make mistakes, but you are going to learn.”
– Laura Mendoza
Laura explained why reading in English is so important to her, “I can go to anyplace and maybe you can talk in English, but what if you have to read something or sign something? It is important to know what you are signing or what you are reading. When my son goes to school, sometimes I have to sign forms for the school. Whenever I go to my doctor or apply for a job, it has to be done in English. Whenever I fill out a form, I always ask for English so I can practice more at reading and writing.”
Laura knows that life will be a bit different for her son, “He’s growing up and he is going to learn and speak in English and I want to help him when he goes to school. A lot of people in my area have kids who don’t want to speak Spanish when their parents don’t know English. It’s sad because how are parents going to be involved in their child’s lives? How can they understand or help them if they need help? I want to be there for my son. If he needs me, I will be there.”
As she works on her literacy journey Laura says, “I hope that by continuing the tutoring I can improve more and get an even better job. I have become more confident in asking for help if I ever don’t understand anything. At first, when I tried to speak, I felt ashamed because I thought that people were making fun of me, but someone told me that if you don’t try, you will never learn…maybe you are going to make mistakes, but you are going to learn.”
Roxanne Quinones, a grandmother caring for her family, graduated earlier this year before the pandemic took over the world. LearningQuest wanted to make sure that Roxanne and the other 87 adults who earned their High School Equivalency diploma since last Fall were still able to experience the once-in-a-lifetime moment of a graduation celebration. Their accomplishments were acknowledged at LearningQuest’s first drive-thru graduation on Thursday, October 1st, in the CrossPoint Church parking lot.
LearningQuest staff welcomed graduates with posters, pompoms, music, and balloons as they arrived to receive their certificates. Families followed in their cars with screams and honking horns as they cheered on their graduate. Community-focused organizations and individuals, like MID, VBC Bottling Co., and state representatives, also supported this moment for the LearningQuest graduates. This celebration was a success as adults, like Roxanne, who’ve worked hard on their goals saw that there is a community of people applauding their commitment to changing their lives.
“When you have a goal set in mind, GO FOR IT, regardless of your finances and home life. There are so many programs out there and LearningQuest has made ways for us to complete our goals and to do so within ways that meet our means. We allow ourselves to let things we are struggling with get in the way of our goals and you have to use your determination to get through it. It is hard, but it can be done.” – Roxanne Quinones
Check out all the photos from the LearningQuest’s first drive thru Graduation in the Facebook photo album below!
2019-2020 LearningQuest Graduates
Juan C. Albor
Juan M. Calixto*
Rosalia Cardenas Gonzalez
Juan M. Dimas
Trina M. Duenas
Diana Isela Estrada
Tyler J. Fite-Parks
Maria Del Carmen Flores
Rigoberto Garcia Medina*
Xane Z. Hernandez
Jazmin Melgarejo Luna
Hayry Mineo Sauceda
Heidy Moscoso Monroy
Ana Karen Ramirez
Moises Rosas Diaz
Luz del Carmen Vilchis
Brian R.D. Woody
* Graduated with Honors
Sometimes even the most unexpected opportunities can inspire us. For Domonique Johnson, that inspiration came long before she began volunteer tutoring with LearningQuest in 2019. Domonique has been a devoted helper in the community for years having volunteered at the Great Valley Museum since 2016. She previously worked for a local restaurant where many of her coworkers did not speak English as their first language and did not have the time or funds to learn. Domonique saw that they greatly wanted to be able to communicate with their peers, supervisors, and even their child’s school. Her 12 years there made her realize that her path was going to take a new turn, she said, “When I stopped working in restaurants, I wanted to be part of an organization that supported people like my coworkers.”
One of her friends, a past tutoring student, mentioned LearningQuest the day before Domonique coincidentally met an LQ team member at an outreach event. She signed up to be a volunteer tutor for LearningQuest’s Adult Literacy program the next day. Domonique said, “Everyone at LearningQuest is so enthusiastic, compassionate, and kind. It feels like a really special community and I wanted to be a part of it.” Little did she know this opportunity would set her on the path to gaining new experiences.
It didn’t take long for Domonique to feel right at home. She was helping students learn to read at the library and then helping adults practice their English speaking skills at LQ’s English Cafe.
“I love helping students! Tutoring feels truly collaborative. Building that relationship and seeing students clearly stating their goals and continually working towards them keeps me committed.” – Domonique Johnson
Domonique continues to help her tutoring students reach goals and has since also become an English as a Second Language (ESL) instructor in LearningQuest’s Family Literacy program. She has grown to love helping others learn that she’s started a new journey of her own, Domonique says, “I have enjoyed my experiences tutoring and teaching so much that I have decided to become a teacher! I am currently in a teacher credential program at Stan State.”
Domonique has some words of inspiration for adults in the community uncertain about restarting their literacy journey, “It’s so easy to feel self-doubt when learning something new, especially something as challenging as language and literacy. Acknowledging that you need help and making that call are the hardest steps. Everyone at LearningQuest wants you to succeed and will work hard to help you reach your goals.”
As a child, Tanisha Smith had many obstacles to overcome on her educational journey. Her timid and shy personality prevented her from asking for help and led to struggling in all of her classes. Despite Tanisha’s desire to succeed, she felt lost. Many years later, she found her voice and stayed determined enough to earn a bachelor’s degree in accounting at CSU, Stanislaus.
That feeling of struggle and achievement motivated Tanisha when roles reversed and she went from student to teacher while homeschooling her two sons for eight years. Wanting to forge a better start for them, she encouraged them to always seek help and ask her questions. Since she had that personal teaching time with them, Tanisha began to notice that her eldest son was struggling with reading and he was soon diagnosed with a language disorder. She tried many programs and school resources, but her son just wasn’t progressing as expected.
Tanisha found KidsQuest, LearningQuest’s one-on-one tutoring for children with dyslexia and other language disorders, and began to quickly see her son’s reading levels improve using the Barton Reading and Spelling program. With how the program approaches learning, she also found a new understanding of reading and writing herself. When her son had questions, Tanisha was relieved to no longer have to tell him, “Oh, that’s just our crazy English language.” She was so moved by her son’s improvement and learning she experienced as a parent that she became a tutor. Now, Tanisha is able to find even better ways to support her son’s learning and help many other KidsQuest students reach their own milestones of reading success.
“I am motivated, focused, and determine to watch each of my students grow confident in their abilities. I want to make a difference, hoping to make learning fun, so they will have a passion to learn.” – Tanisha Smith
Tanisha stays dedicated to creating a space for students to reach new levels of learning and find their own voice while she tutors. To those who support LearningQuest programs, like KidsQuest, Tanisha says, “I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for your dedication and compassion to help increase the confidence in our children, so they can shine when they are ready to enter the world and stand independently as proud individuals.”
Meet Heather & Miranda…
Heather Sevo struggled with dyslexia since childhood, but essential school resources helped her start junior high at the same reading level as her peers and maintain top grades through college. It was an accomplishment that required hard work and dedication from herself and those who helped her. Heather said, “So, when my child, Miranda, wasn’t able to keep up with the rest of her class in reading and spelling, I knew something was wrong.”
It turns out that Miranda, only being in third grade, indeed had dyslexia like her mother and quickly joined the school’s resource program. She said, “Although she was learning how to spell and read, it wasn’t the one on one she needed. It was a small group of kids that met for 15 minutes only two times a week. She wasn’t learning what she needed as quickly as she was needing it. By the time she got into fourth grade, she was only reading at a second grade level and spelling was at first grade level at best. Her self esteem and self confidence was starting to suffer and she was quickly being left behind in her learning. She was able to piece together and memorize enough to keep her afloat, but not enough to succeed.”
“You only fail if you give up!
If you are doing your best, that is what counts.”
– Sevo Family motto
Heather learned about LearningQuest’s free one-on-one tutoring for dyslexic children using the Barton System through the KidsQuest program held at the Stanislaus County Library. She said, “I was doing everything I could at home to help her. I was tutoring her in reading and spelling, but could not afford the Barton System at $350 per level, so I did what I could do.” After enrolling Miranda into KidsQuest and witnessing the commitment from her tutor, Tim Smart, Heather saw a significant improvement in her daughter’s academic success and confidence. Heather said, “This has been a blessing from God! We could not afford the Barton System on our own. This program enabled [Miranda] to get the help she needs with an excellently trained tutor…that has the patience and time to help her. She has gone from reading at a second grade level to a fifth grade reading level in just one year! It has given my daughter the confidence to enter into sixth grade knowing that she can read what she needs to read without feeling anxious or defeated.”
Miranda has regained her self confidence and no longer feels pressured to play “catch up” in school. Miranda said, “My mom keeps me motivated and determined to do my best because she is always there for me. We talk about what it is I’m learning and she teaches me and takes me deeper into the subject. She doesn’t just give me the answers, she helps me figure it out for myself. She encourages me by telling me of her struggles and how she overcame them. She also tells me about others that are dyslexic and how they have gone on to accomplish great things in their lives.”
“Through KidsQuest, my daughter was given the necessary tools she needed to learn how to read. Schools are overwhelmed and underfunded. They do not have the ability to work one on one with a student that needs the extra help. Without Tim Smart and KidsQuest, my daughter would be entering middle school unable to read,” said Heather. For other parents struggling to help their child find the resources they need, she says, “Seek help. Ask for a parent teacher conference with your child’s teacher. Be strong! Be your child’s advocate.”
Did you know that many parents in your community don’t know that they can access free educational and support resources?
Bridge the gap for families, like Heather and Miranda’s, by making sure support programs stay available for parents searching for resources.