Keelers Keep Going

KidsQuest kid, Thomas Keeler

KidsQuest kid, Thomas Keeler

“He has so much more to say and prove then what he is able to. To watch him grow and struggle less with each session leaves us grateful and speechless.” 

-Carrie Keeler, Thomas’ mother

Thomas and his dad, Brian

Thomas and his dad, Brian

Parents, like Brian and Carrie Keeler, strive to find the resources to support their child’s development.  When their son, Thomas, showed signs of struggling with the alphabet at an early age they made it their mission to learn how to help him.  However, the journey to finding success for Thomas was not the simplest path.  Thomas received speech therapy at the Valley Mountain Regional Center and then evaluated when he entered public school at three years old.  His school came up with an individualized education program (IEP) for Thomas’ auditory processing disorder, but he was moved over to a private school in hopes of receiving even better support.  Carrie said, “I remember the IEP we had and how defeated we felt that we didn’t know much of the diagnosis or treatment.”


When Thomas returned to public school in first grade he fell further behind.  His teacher noticed Thomas’ struggle in class and requested to have another IEP set up for him – that was when the Keelers were introduced to the term “dyslexia.”  Since dyslexia wasn’t recognized as a diagnosis, they stuck with auditory processing disorder until Thomas was able to get an evaluation from Stanford.  Thomas’ full diagnosis of a specific learning disability and Social Pragmatic Communication Disorder was the stepping stone they needed to receive more services for him.


They joined a dyslexia support group for the Central Valley and Thomas resumed third-grade reading below a kindergarten level.  His teacher, also dyslexic herself, empathized with Thomas and poured more time and dedication into his growth.  He started to show improvement but began to plateau after eight months.  Carrie continued to seek resources for her son and found KidsQuest’s free one-on-one tutoring for dyslexic children.


Carrie said, “I needed more help than we could afford.  We started tutoring in November of 2019 and have never looked back.  Thomas has shown exponential growth since receiving the generous services he has been provided.  This program has meant the world to our family.  Thomas reads to me now which has been emotional and, although the struggle is still there, he feels safe in the comfort and support his tutors provide him.”  A year later, Thomas continues to thrive and has developed an immense love for reading.

Caring for Kelly’s Granddaughters

Lily and Ailee

Lily and Ailee posing for a picture.

Kelly Carreon knew that her granddaughters, Lily and Ailee, already struggled so much with reading.  The support services they had been receiving for years at school weren’t helping and distance learning during COVID made it worse.  Kelly searched for tutoring specialized in learning disorders to help them catch up and found KidsQuest.  Since enrolling the girls in January, they’ve been able to access trained tutors and the Barton Reading & Spelling System at no cost. Kelly says,

“I can’t express enough how much it means that there are people out there who care. When I pick them up from their tutoring sessions, they’re just beaming.”

Here’s our interview with Kelly…

LearningQuest (LQ):  Tell us about education and literacy in your family.

Kelly (K):  As far as I can remember, I have never had problems with learning.  I went all the way up to college, but I didn’t get my degree.  Still, I never really struggled so when I saw my granddaughters (Lily, 11 years old, and Ailee, 9 years old) struggling, I really was kind of at a disadvantage.  I didn’t understand that there were people who actually struggled in comprehending or learning.  It honestly opened my eyes to something I didn’t really understand. 

So when they were struggling, I didn’t know how to handle it. I did my research and looked around, but ultimately I felt like I didn’t have the tools to help them myself.  Their mother never had difficulty with reading, writing, or math.  Now that I think about it, my mother (their great grandmother) had a lot of difficulty with learning.  She struggled a lot with it.  I wonder if it skipped generations. I see some similarities between the girls and my mother.  When COVID happened and they started to do distance learning at home, I started seeing they were having trouble.  I knew that with the school, I mean they do the best they can with what they have, but the school programs didn’t seem to be enough to help them.  They’ve been going to those since they were in kindergarten or first grade I believe.

LQ:  What is it that keeps you committed to helping your grandchildren reach their literacy goals?

K:  I worried.  I want them to get all the help they need so they don’t have to struggle their whole lives.  I don’t want them to be at a disadvantage in life.  It makes me so happy to see them making strides.  As I said, I have seen how their enthusiasm has increased when it comes to learning.  When I pick them up from their tutoring sessions, they are just beaming.  They feel so accomplished in what they do and it makes me proud.  We love reading with them.  Just the other day, the youngest was asking my  husband, “I want Piggy and Gerald books grandpa!”  He saw the books at Target the other day and we read it together.  Both of their enthusiasm has changed dramatically since starting the program. 

LQ:  How has KidsQuest helped your family?

K:  I’ve looked into the different systems like the Barton system and they are just so expensive.  You know, some of these programs are hundreds of dollars.  So it was really nice to find out there was a free program out there that would help them.  I saw a flyer one day and quickly took a picture.  I can’t express enough how much it means to me that there are people out there who care.  Because of them, there is a program like this to help people at no extra cost.  I wish I could thank every single one of the supporters in person.  Their tutors have been just so great.  Domonique and Daniela have been incredible with them.  The girls never feel put down or anything by them and it just seems like a perfect fit.  Thank you for what you do. 

LQ:  What advice do you have for parents with children who are struggling with reading and writing?

K:  Just be patient.  Patience is key, especially during these times.  Patience is key.

Ailee and Lily reading

Lily and Ailee reading some of their favorite books.

Third Time’s the Charm for Kevin

Kevin posing with his degree.

Kevin proudly showing off his academic achievement award.

LearningQuest (LQ): What was your story before LearningQuest? 


Kevin (K): “I always had trouble as a kid with school.  I had a problem with authority and I feel like my attention span just wasn’t there.  When mom and I would sit down to do homework we would bump heads even though I had a desire to learn and get more knowledge.  She just couldn’t keep my focus and the same happened in the classroom.  I was able to work with several teachers and go to resource groups, but I didn’t really understand the importance of education. 


The last grade I ever completed was eighth grade.  I had some trouble at home: divorced parents, father wasn’t around, and I just didn’t have that guidance or somebody there to tell me, ‘Hey look, you’re gonna need math someday,’ or, ‘You’re gonna wanna help your own kids with their homework someday.’


In ninth grade I got into drugs and alcohol because I was going through depression and suicidal tendencies.  I managed to make it to about a month left of school when the vice principal told me that I could go on to the 10th grade with D’s or that maybe high school was not for me.  Being a misguided youth, I thought to myself, ‘Well, I have a choice,’ so I decided to drop out of high school. 


Years go by and I see my friends graduate and get their diplomas, it just made me fall into a deeper depression. Time goes on and I find I can get a job without a diploma and it just pushes school away.  When I was in my late 20s I tried going back to school to get my GED, but it was just the same thing – my attention span wasn’t there.  I didn’t feel like I had the focus that was needed to get through school, so I dropped out again. 

More years pass and I have kids.  My oldest son didn’t graduate so I saw myself in him and I did not want that for him.  My second son really took to school and graduated from Beyer High School.  I felt a sense of accomplishment through him because I got to see him walk the stage to get his diploma and I always had that burn inside of me to get my diploma – I just never had the confidence.  


LQ: What finally inspired you to try again and stick to it?

K: I went to jail and I was getting ready to have a daughter at 44 years old so I started to think to myself, ‘Do I want her to walk down the same path that I did or do I want to educate myself so that when she gets into school I can help her with homework or projects?’ She was a motivating force that lit that fire inside me. 

I wanted to get a better career so I can provide a better future for my daughter so I joined LearningQuest while I was in jail and met Abraham.  The little kid in me that got lost for so long finally found his teacher in Abraham.  He gave me that confidence I needed with school and I just gave it my all, studied, and finally grasped what was being taught to me.  It was just something I always wanted in my life.  I couldn’t be involved with conversations when people said, ‘I got my High School diploma,’ because it always hit me hard.  It was like that little boy inside me was crying and now I had the opportunity to get my high school diploma – I owe it all to LearningQuest.  It was the best experience of my life.  I can now join in those conversations and say, ‘Yeah, I went back to school at 44 and got my diploma.’ 

LQ: Was there ever a moment when you wanted to give up again?


K: There was one time I was in class with Abraham and there was some kind of Algebra 2 problem, I just couldn’t get the answer fast enough.  I remember saying something about doubting myself and he told me, ‘We don’t talk like that.’  Any doubt that I had was shattered with the unconditional support he showed me.  It was just a brief moment, but I never wanted to give up.  The people around me, like my daughter’s mom, were super supportive.  It was cool whenever I got the certificates for each test that I passed, I got to show my mom some 20 years later the certificates and the diploma.  It gets me choked up thinking about watching her cry with joy.  There is no bad experience whatsoever and any doubt I may have had I was greeted with the unconditional help and love that was needed to get through what I missed. 


LQ: How long have you been sober?


K: I have been clean now for 13 months and 11 days.  I made a plan with my daughter’s mom, that we wouldn’t try for a baby until I got clean and my daughter was born last June.  She has never seen that person and God willing she never will.  I’ve got to do the things I’ve got to do to make sure it never happens.  


LQ: What are your plans for the future?


K: I joined another program while incarcerated to get a career in truck driving.  They said, ‘Hey, you need to get a diploma.’  Now that I have my diploma and permit, I am in truck driving school and plan to get a job locally.  One of my dreams is to work with people who are struggling with addiction.  Having a diploma will help me get into a junior college and help me pursue that dream later on. 

Kevin and his family

Kevin and his family posing for a photo.

2020 Annual Impact Report

  • 2020 Annual Impact Report
  • 2020 Annual Impact Report (1)
  • 2020 Annual Impact Report (2)
  • 2020 Annual Impact Report (3)
  • 2020 Annual Impact Report (4)
  • 2020 Annual Impact Report (5)
  • 2020 Annual Impact Report (6)

Manuel Makes It!

Manuel Maciel

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

Elijah Stays on Track

Meet Elijah Bixby…

Elijah with his pet mouse and his piano.

Elijah with his pet mouse and his piano.

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!

Elijah smiling for a picture with his mom and two sisters.

Elijah smiling for a picture with his mom and two sisters.

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.”

Impact a student today!

2020 Literacy for the Holidays Results!

Literacy for the Holidays LOGO

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’s List of Literacy Goals

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.”

-Laura Mendoza
LQ Library Tutoring Student

$27,129 Raised

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

Karen Williams

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
Executive Director
LearningQuest – Stanislaus Literacy Centers

Thank you for your support!

For questions or more info, contact:

Rochele Roura-Foster, Program Director of Development & Communication


Laura’s List of Literacy Goals

Laura’s List of Literacy Goals

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 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.”

Support students like Laura through the Literacy for the Holidays fundraiser, click below!

Literacy for the Holidays 1
Give 2

2020 Fall Graduation – A Drive Thru Success!

          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

Augustine Alonso*

Abelino Alvarez

Sergio Alvarez*

Jaklin Amiri

Rosario Banuelos

Claudio Barron

Sibei Becerril

Juana  Cabrera

Juan M.  Calixto*

Mallory Cantu

Rosalia Cardenas Gonzalez

Maria Cervantes

Richard Chavez

Michelle Cimino

Elizabeth Dehart

Celia Diaz

Juan M.  Dimas

Trina M. Duenas

Shawn Elliott

Libier Escamilla*

Diana Isela Estrada

Vincent Fernando

Tyler J. Fite-Parks

Maria Del Carmen Flores

Idania Fuentes

Juan  Garcia

Rigoberto Garcia Medina*

Tonatee Gentry*

Johnny Gonzales

Maria  Gonzales

Abigail Gonzalez

Beatriz  Gonzalez*

Guadalupe Guerrero

Laniza Guiang

Monica Gutierrez

Xane Z. Hernandez

Larry Hinkston

Jason House*

Delilah Hurtado

Yessenia Jimenez

Chethan Kommu

Vanessa Laccetti

Michael Lane

Miguel Lopez

Rigoberto Lopez

Jose Lopez

Anthony Mancilla

Jordan Masangcay

Jazmin  Melgarejo Luna

Virginia Melius*

Hayry  Mineo Sauceda

Michael Modaresi

Christopher Morales

Heidy Moscoso Monroy

Theresia Ngefor

Benjamin Nunez

Rosalba Ochoa*

Estella Ortiz

Aida Pablo

Jerymia  Parker*

Karina Pineda

Roxanne Quinones

John Rainey*

Ana Karen Ramirez

David Ramos*

Alice Razo

Jennifer Rocca*

Jennifer Rogers

Moises Rosas Diaz

Yajaira Salinas

Alberto Sanchez

Jonathan Sangster

Paul Segovia*

Tyrone Smith

Melissa Soto*

Emily Souza*

Jose Toledo

Bethany Tyler

Guadalupe Valverde

Tatiana Vargas

Adela  Vera

Luz del Carmen Vilchis

Michael White

William Williams

Nathan Willis

Brian R.D. Woody

Ramon Zavala

* Graduated with Honors

Domonique’s New Journey

          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.”

Domonique Johnson
Domonique with her student, Phebe, and Adult Literacy coordinator, Rose, at the 2019 Literacy Network's Celebrate Literacy Awards

Domonique with her student, Phebe, and Adult Literacy coordinator, Rose, at the 2019 Literacy Network’s Celebrate Literacy Awards