Kayla attended an adult literacy program that was supported by the Barbara Bush Foundation for three years to earn her high school diploma. While attending school, she also participated in a family literacy program with her two daughters: Mia, age seven, and Ava, age two.
Growing up, Kayla was diagnosed with a learning disability and placed in special education classes. She was teased by other students and didn’t feel a part of the school. When she was in 11th grade, she became pregnant with Mia, dropped out of school, and began working full-time at a fast food restaurant to support her new daughter. By the time she became pregnant with Ava, she was laid off from her job and concerned about supporting two children. Kayla said, “I knew I needed to make changes in my life, beginning with finishing my education.”
So, Kayla joined classes to “restart” her education because, “At that time, something happened that scared me,” she said, “My oldest daughter, Mia, started kindergarten, and I was told that she had ADHD and a learning disability. I knew I needed to help my daughter. I knew I wanted her to have a good education. I did not want her to be teased or feel alone at school as I did. I wanted her to finish school, go to college, and feel proud of herself and be successful. I know now the word for all of this is ‘advocate,’ but it took this program to show me what the word means.”
Kayla didn’t know how important it was to read to her children. She shared, “When Mia was little, I rarely read to her. I was not read to as a child and it never occurred to me that it was important.”
“I knew I needed to help my daughter. I knew I wanted her to have a good education. I did not want her to be teased or feel alone at school as I did. I wanted her to finish school, go to college, and feel proud of herself and be successful. I know now the word for all of this is ‘advocate,’ but it took this program to show me what the word means.
At first, reading to her daughters was difficult because her reading level was very low. Kayla said, “I would mess up the words or say the wrong thing. I couldn’t even pronounce some of the words in the children’s books.” But after three years of classes, she was able to read at a high school level and enjoy reading.
Kayla’s daughter Mia struggled with reading at school, too, and Kayla said, “I did not always understand what the school was talking about or what Mia needed. As my reading and conversation skills developed, I started to participate in the decision making process. Now, I am a part of her educational plan, I am her advocate, and I will not let her be left behind in school.”
Kayla’s other daughter, Ava, was a part of the family literacy program since she was four months old. Kayla said, “Because she has been a part of the family literacy program, she has always had books in her life, and it has made a big difference. At age two, she is confident, outgoing, and a very determined little girl.”
Thanks to the family literacy program, Kayla’s life changed in many different ways. She met other parents and said, “We know we have the support to teach and care for our children. This part of the program has helped me to solve problems and handle situations in my life about my education and parenting. It has taught me to be the best parent that I can be.”
Kayla says that her role as a student gave her the determination and confidence to succeed. “I am at a place where teachers understand me and care for me. No one gave up on me or teased me. It is a safe place to learn,” she said. “I enjoy coming to school every day; it is something that I want to do. The result of this is that I plan to graduate with my high school diploma in June. I plan to go to college and study Early Childhood Education. I can do this because I was a part of this program, and they will continue to offer me advice when I become a college student!”
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