Most students can attribute their academic success to a teacher who believed in them. For many LCOT students, that teacher is Rick Swain. Read in his words, what it means to be a part of this transformation.  

The other day I received an excited, yet tearful, call from a student (Blanca Albarran) who had participated in an Intensive College Preparatory Class with me prior to the 2009 Fall Semester at TJC. Blanca, now in her fourth semester at TJC, was calling to inform me that she had been accepted into the very competitive and somewhat exclusive Nursing Program at TJC; she wanted me to be the first to hear of her life-changing news.

My name is Rick Swain and I have been affiliated with the Literacy Council of Tyler (LCOT) since February 2007. I started as a Math tutor on Monday and Tuesday evenings. In August of 2007 I was asked to take over an Adult Beginning Education (ABE) class to teach the full curriculum that covered G.E.D. preparation; in the succeeding twenty months I would see twenty-six students earn their G.E.D. certification while working with me. It was my honor and privilege to witness many of these students, amongst others, proudly participate in G.E.D. Graduation ceremonies where they walked across a stage attired in caps and gowns to the applause and cheers of family members and friends.

I came to LCOT to connect with and to impact others, never imagining the impact that my students would have upon me. I have regularly witnessed tremendous examples of courage, sacrifice, and persistence displayed by many students that were entrusted into my care. It is almost indescribable for me to relate the profound effect that so many students have had upon me when a “light came on” or blossoming confidence transcended into empowerment.

Just when I thought it was “as good as it could get” another blessing unfolded; LCOT pursued a state grant that hoped to prepare G.E.D. Certificate earners to transition into college —- I was hired in a full-time capacity to design, recruit, and instruct this Pilot Program in May of 2009. Almost two years later, twenty-seven “survivors” of this rigorous Intensive College Preparatory Program, including Blanca, confidently and purposefully stride across the TJC Campus.

To be a part of an organization that not only wages battle against the whirlpool effects of illiteracy but stands for the pursuit of academic excellence  fans and sustains my passion on a daily basis. The Literacy Council of Tyler is comprised of talented, committed, and insightful Administrators; tireless, caring, and gifted instructors and staff; as well as an army of selfless and giving volunteers; it is truly my pleasure to work and serve among such an extraordinary brotherhood. We collectively stand for transformation and development of all who pass through our doors.

Rick Swain/LCOT Instructor

Heart of a Lion

According to a  recent study, 29% of Texas students will not graduate from high school*.  At only 15 years old, Maria Macedo quit school and became a statistic. Now ten years later, Maria’s life is back on track thanks to her incredible determination.  

When Maria Macedo was in the ninth grade, her boyfriend convinced her to drop out of school.  “I don’t know what I was thinking,” she tells us. “I was fifteen years old and he was fourteen. I was being rebellious, I guess.”

A breakup with the abusive boyfriend and several years of dead end jobs convinced Maria that she wanted more from life. “Little by little, I realized that my life wasn’t going anywhere.”

When Maria came to Literacy Council of Tyler, she was matched with Tutor Gail Knight. After about a year, Maria took the GED and passed all sections, except math. She and Gail continued to work on math for a few months, and then Maria took the math section again. And failed again. So she came back for more tutoring and took that section again. And failed a third time.

Gail, Maria’s tutor went to talk to Rick Swain, a LCOT teacher. Gail didn’t have the heart to call Maria to tell her the results. “I don’t know what else I can do,” Gail told Rick. “She knows the material.”  So, Rick called Maria and broke the bad news. While on the phone, however, he made Maria a promise. “If you’ll come in and work with me,” he told her, “I can get you to where you can pass that test.”

Although she was devastated by the third failure, Maria told Rick she would give it one more try. When she and Rick started to work together it became obvious that although Maria obviously struggled with math, her main problem was test taking strategies.  So that’s what they began to address. Maria talks about showing up for a tutoring session once with braces on both arms. “I had carpel tunnel,” she says. “I couldn’t even hold a pencil. Mr. Rick told me to go home, but I wanted to stay and work—I was so ready to get finished.” When asked if she did stay, Maria laughs. “No. He made me go home. But once the braces came off I came back.”

Her persistence paid off. Finally, on her fourth attempt, Maria took and passed the Math section.

The future is looking up for Maria. She has a good job now working at Catholic Charities.  “I answer the phone and can translate,” she tells us. “Since I have some experience with living in a domestic abuse situation, it makes it easier for the clients to talk to me.”

At 25 years old, Maria’s life is back on track. Now that she has her GED, she’s planning to attend TJC. In fact she’s signed up for the Literacy Council of Tyler’s College Prep class this June where she’ll be working with Rick Swain again. “Mr. Rick told me that I was the kind of person he wanted in his class—the kind of person who won’t give up.”  She grins when she tells us, “Mr. Rick told me that I have the heart of a lion.”

 * 2009 study by Intercultural Development Research Association.