Determined to read, motivated to succeed
Anthony Everson grew up in Miami, Fla. At age 14
he began working part time to help his single mother make ends meet. By
17 he was working nearly full time and going to high school. He couldn’t
do both, so he quit school.
“We lived in a one-bedroom apartment. My mother worked as a maid and
was always so tired. I helped pay the bills,” says Anthony, now 54. “I
had to grow up quick.”
Anthony took warehouse jobs, drove a forklift and loaded ships at the
Port of Miami. He worked hard, but he was never able to get ahead. In
1985, when he was 25, Anthony moved to Michigan to be near his father.
He got married and had a son. Although his son has since graduated from
high school, school remained a dream for Anthony.
Then he learned about adult literacy classes through the Kalamazoo
Literacy Council, which is housed at Goodwill Industries of Southwestern
Michigan. Last year, Anthony went back to school.
“I was really scared. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into.
But I told myself, ‘Man up. Whatever comes I can do it.’ And it turned
out to be a great opportunity.”
When Anthony left school in the 10th grade, he read and wrote like a
much younger student. As a teenager, he knew he’d fallen behind his
classmates, but he was afraid to ask for help. The Kalamazoo Literacy
Council paired Anthony with Carl Ill, a former high school English
teacher and principal. That made Anthony even more nervous.
But Carl was nothing like Anthony expected. Carl knew that asking for help was an act of courage.
Says Carl, “You have to admire someone who’s 53 and says ‘I want to
learn to read and write,’ and then puts in the time and the effort to
make that a reality.”
“Carl was so nice,” says Anthony. “He started working with me the
first time we met. He told me I could do it and he was right. Every time
I get to a new workbook, he celebrates with me. I couldn’t believe
anyone would be so kind.”
At the Literacy Council, the students are tested to determine their
reading and writing abilities. Their goals depend on the individual.
Some learn to read and write to perform their jobs better and to read to
their children. Some go on to learn computer skills. Anthony wanted to
improve his reading and writing to get a high school equivalency
diploma. Students usually meet with a tutor once a week, but Anthony was
so motivated that he met with Carl more often. In just one year Anthony
was halfway to his goal. The experience helped him get a job at
“I’m determined. I’m not going to let anybody or anything slow me
down or stop me now,” says Anthony. And he means it. During much of the
past year he held two jobs while studying. Then he had a heart attack.
Once again, he found himself having to choose between work and school.
This time, he quit his second job and now works only at Goodwill.
“You have to have an education to live in this society,” Anthony
advises. “You need to get your diploma. If you’re motivated to do that,
there is help right here.”
The Kalamazoo Literacy Council is part of the Adult Literacy
Collaborative, which also serves as The Learning Network's Adult
Learning Action Network.