At a family literacy program in Florida that was supported by the Barbara Bush Foundation, Maria’s life changed forever. When she first entered the program as a young mother, she had no high school diploma and limited English skills. She supported her family as a migrant worker, and even her older children worked in the fields to make ends meet.
“It broke my heart watching them spend weekends and summers working in extreme conditions. Life was very, very hard,” said Maria.
When her son asked to go to preschool, Maria realized she must find a way to go back to school in order to give her family a better life.
That’s when she found a family literacy program to support both her return to education and her children’s literacy skills. Both children and adults received 108 hours of literacy instruction in one school year. Adult learners with English as a second language typically progressed nearly one-half a grade level in one school year. Participating children also progressed an average of one grade level in reading in a single school year.
Maria said, the family literacy program “welcomed me and my toddler. I worked hard to earn a GED diploma and my child development accreditation so I could get a better job. I was finally showing my kids how education provides many wonderful opportunities.”
“I worked hard to earn a GED diploma and my child development accreditation so I could get a better job. I was finally showing my kids how education provides many wonderful opportunities.
Through her dedication and hard work, Maria became the first Barbara Bush Foundation college scholarship recipient in 2009 in Florida. Thanks to a partnership with the Florida Association of Postsecondary Schools and Colleges, she enrolled in Southwest College.
“From the time I stepped into my first college class I knew teaching was what I was meant to do,” said Maria.
Maria continued to work toward a Bachelor’s degree in Education. While proud of her own academic success, Maria says that she is most proud of setting a good example for her children. Her two oldest sons are college graduates that pursued master’s degrees and her two youngest are honor students.
Like Barbara Bush, Maria believes that education is a family affair. “Thanks to an opportunity to go back to school with my child in tow, today I am a different person,” she said. “No longer a migrant farm worker, I am still the wife of a supportive husband, the mother of four amazing children, and now a college graduate and a teacher who loves to inspire the next generation.”
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