Celebrating achievement, looking toward the future

by Doro Bush Koch
The Ardmore community has a reason to celebrate. Last Thursday evening, more than 50 adult students graduated at the Ardmore Convention Center from local literacy programs. What makes this graduation special is that these individuals had given up on their education at some point in their lives, but then made the heroic decision to go back to school and finish their GED, learn English, or advance their education.

The decision to return to school is sometimes not an easy one. Each student has their own story of tragedy, struggles and sacrifice. One of the graduates from The Ardmore Barbara Bush Literacy Corps is a single mother who was exposed to drugs and alcohol at a young age. She became pregnant at 14 years old and struggled with school because she had no one to help her watch her son during the day. Last semester, she took the GED and passed. Her next goal is to attend college. Her success is exactly why family literacy programs work. The talented and trained staff at the Ardmore Barbara Bush Literacy Corps not only helped her with math and language arts, but also taught her parenting and time management skills.

Latest census data estimates that almost one in five adults in Ardmore does not have a high school diploma. That means that those individuals face greater challenges in obtaining better jobs and gaining the necessary skills to improve their lives. Research shows that low-literacy skills are directly linked to greater inequality, high unemployment, less earned income and poor health. And if those adults are unable to read proficiently, their children will also most likely follow their parents’ footsteps, lack the age-expected communication skills and start school behind. The effects of illiteracy negatively impacts multiple generations, which is why these local literacy programs are critical for so many adults who deserve a second chance in advancing their educational goals.

With the support of the Dollar General Literacy Foundation, a number of local literacy programs in Ardmore are working together to fill the gap and help low-income adults who are trying to finish school, learn to read or learn English. The directors of these programs meet once a month in Ardmore to collaborate and access the needs of those adults who are requesting services. They find the program that works for each individual.

For instance, the Ardmore Barbara Bush Literacy Corps focuses on helping working parents to complete their education and earn a GED while their young children are learning in the other room, which means that the whole family benefits.

Adult participants in our family literacy program not only gain personally from their educational achievement, but they become better parents. The literacy program offers parenting sessions. What young children learn from the adults who raise them lays the foundation for future social, emotional, language and intellectual growth. Prepared and educated parents results in prepared and educated children, which in the long run benefits the family, community and the economy.

My mother former First Lady Barbara Bush has long understood the benefits of promoting literacy in every household. As she has said before, “learning to read helps cure the ills in our society.” After these adult graduates walk on stage, they will finally feel the joys of graduating and taking the next step in improving their lives. It is a proud moment for each of them and their families. The community of Ardmore will gain a more skilled workforce, which will help its economy.

Doro Bush Koch is the honorary chairman of The Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy.

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