Why Literacy

Our Stories

Our Stories from Students and Volunteers


Alice has been studying with the Literacy Council since the fall of 2006. She came to us at a pre-literacy level and could not say the sounds of the letters in the alphabet.   She is now reading at the high intermediate basic skills level and preparing for the GED.   Alice is 74 years old. It’s never too late to learn how to read!


Anne has been a Literacy Council ESOL tutor for two years.   She’s the pastry chef at Chelsea’s Tea Room in Biltmore Village.   She teaches English to some of her co-workers after hours at the restaurant.   They’ve been meeting weekly for nine months now.   “I really enjoy teaching and learning with my co-workers,” says Anne.   “Class happens for only two hours on Sunday afternoon, but learning continues throughout the week with questions and conversations.   And since I’m studying Spanish, it’s a two-way street.   Overcoming the language barrier has allowed us to be better friends.”


Bill was born in Alaska and moved to Asheville in 1965 when he was only four years old.   Doctors here thought he couldn’t learn to read or write and predicted that he would never hold down a job, drive, or live on his own.   Bill proved them wrong!   Bill graduated from high school, but he could only read a little.   He came to the Literacy Council for help ten years ago.   Since then, Bill got a job at the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Department.   He volunteers as a fireman at the Enka/Candler Fire and Rescue.   He joined the Lion’s Club to help others and has earned his black belt in karate.   In his own words, Bill says:   “I have learned a lot of things with Julie [my tutor].   I have promoted four levels since we met.   I want to keep learning with Julie.   I want to read more and write better.”


After just a few months with her tutor, Blanca went from housekeeping in a hotel to working in the Intensive Care Unit at Mission Hospital where she was voted Employee of the Month.   She loves her new job, partly because it offers her much more opportunity to practice her English.   She has now achieved U.S. citizenship and passed four of the five components of the GED.



When the company where he had worked for eight years closed its doors, Bobby had to find other work.   He decided to open his own guttering business.   But running a business when you can’t read is tough.   His wife encouraged him to seek help at the Literacy Council.   At first he was nervous, but his tutor immediately put him at ease.   His tutor is now a friend whom Bobby enthusiastically praises for her patience, knowledge, and sensitivity.   Now, after three years, Bobby is reading and operating a successful business.

Jose E.

Jose’s New Job
By Jose Estrada (with editing assistance from Bob Hoy)
I wasn’t sure what to do.  Should I apply for the job or not?  I was comfortable in my current job, but I felt I needed a change.  The new job would pay a higher wage, but would be much more challenging.  It would require a lot of communication in English, and I was afraid I couldn’t handle it..

Read Jose's story


Jose C.

Jose came to the US from Ecuador in 1990 and began English classes.   He worked in landscaping for several years, and then opened his own landscaping business.   He brought his wife and children to join him in 1998.   Now, they are all U.S. citizens and his children are college bound.   A daughter recently graduated from WCU with a degree in nursing.   Another daughter is attending ABTech.   Jose’s son is also attending ABTech while waiting to hear about admission to UNC-Chapel Hill.

Landmark Landscapes

John Thelen, Vice President & General Manager, writes of the numerous benefits his company received by hosting on-site ESOL classes for their Hispanic employees.   To mention a few:   enhances trust in the company, posters positive relationships, impacts safety and efficiency, helps ensure work is done properly the first time, and is great for morale.
Read John's letter to donors >>



Lucia, from Ecuador, works as a Spanish teacher at Odessey Community School.   “I began to learn English when I was in first grade,” Lucia writes.   “But I was very shy and I wouldn’t speak it at all.”   At the Odyssey School, Lucia saw some teachers using a methodology to teach the students how to read and write.   She instantly felt that their techniques were extremely helpful.   “One of the teachers recommended that I contact the Literacy Council.   That is exactly what I did and I cannot be happier,” says Lucia as she continues her story.   “I am learning how to read and write in English and also improving my pronunciation in a very deep, effective and simple way.   I really appreciate the dedication of my tutor and this great opportunity that the Literacy Council gave me.”


Luz immigrated to Asheville from Mexico and is our first ESOL grad to also become a tutor!   Luz was an ESOL student with the Literacy Council from 2002-2005 and went on to become a preschool teacher.   She recently opened her own preschool, Buenos Dias Family Child Care.   Luz tutors a small group of ESOL beginners at St. Eugene’s Catholic Church – one of eight weekly classes the Literacy Council conducts at St. Eugene’s.
Read Luz’s story in
her letter to donors >>


Lyudmyla, a Literacy Council student since Feb.’07, is from Ukraine and has learned English as her third language.   She started as a beginner and improved faster than any other student we can remember, completing the Advanced level and graduating from the ESOL program in less than three years.   Mastering English gave Lyudmyla the skills she needed to complete the CNA (Certified Nurse’s Assistant) Level I and II courses at AB Tech.   She was able to buy her own home and is currently working towards certification as a foster parent.

Maria Teresa

Maria Teresa tells the story that the day she was born in Indaparapeo, Michoacán, Mexico, “electricity lit up my town for the first time.”   She began working when she was only 13 years old and came to the U.S. at age 25 to live with her sister.   “My first English teacher was my eight-year old niece,” says Maria Teresa.   “She taught me the alphabet, numbers and easy words.”   Maria Teresa has often worked two full time jobs while studying to improve her English skills.   In Asheville, Maria Teresa and her husband found the Literacy Council and signed up for language classes and computer training.   They earned their U.S. citizenship and bought their own house in 2007. “By spring, we were happy preparing the soil for our first garden,” Maria Teresa announced.   “We planted tomatoes, jalapeno peppers, cilantro and green beans.   Now we are taking English classes for better spelling and pronunciation.   I want to say thank you to the Literacy Council for the opportunity that they gave to us, and to my teachers who are patient counselors and friends.   Thanks for the time and the fun that I never expected in my class room.”


Nadya uses her new English skills to tell loving stories about Belarus, her homeland, to her tutor.   Listen as she shares her experiences:   “In my country ( Belarus), we celebrate Christmas on January 7th so my family used to go to spend the day in the forest where the Christmas trees are.   We would bring a lot of clothes and many pair of gloves and socks because it was very cold, minus 20-30 degrees Celsius.   My husband would be very funny.   When he saw a tree with a lot of snow up on its branches he would say, ‘Children, stand here by this tree and I will show you something interesting.’   They would stand by the trunk and he would get a stick and knock the snow from the branches onto them.   They would be little snowmen.   We would clear a space in the snow and gather branches and build a fire.   We brought some food along, thick bacon that the children would cook themselves on sticks.   When we got home at night they would fall right asleep, tired from the long day and all the fresh air.”


When Rachael became an Adult Education student at the Literacy Council, she had difficulty reading and had no formal education.   With help from her tutor, she received her GED in August 2009 and is now in a college degree program at AB Tech.







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