Accelerating Success: Barbara’s Story

Barbara Merritt Certified Nurse Aide 2013 GED Graduate Picture courtesy of The Women’s Fund

Barbara Merritt
Certified Nurse Aide
2013 GED Graduate
Picture courtesy of The Women’s Fund

A single mom of two, Barbara Merritt, always put her kids’ needs first. Focusing on her education was never a priority, especially since she never had any trouble finding work. That was until the recession hit. She quickly found out that employers wanted people with at least a high school diploma or a GED. Barbara admits she wasn’t ready or even motivated to go back to school, but knew she had to make a change. She said with God leading her steps, she decided to tackle getting her GED.

When Barbara tested at Literacy Council of Tyler, her reading scores placed her in the Accelerated course. She worked hard. Although it was tough, she finished in six weeks. But like most of LCOT students, Barbara had a tough time with math. She had passed all of her subject areas on the GED but was one test away from finishing because of math. Math is not one of those subjects that with a little practice you pick up where you left off in high school. Barbara did not give up. She studied at home, came to tutoring and, in December of 2013, she passed her math, earning her GED.

While working on her GED, she also heard about the Dual Enrollment Program and applied for it. Through a grant Literacy Council of Tyler receives from one of its community partners, The Women’s Fund, Barbara was able to attend the 4-week nurse aide program and the interview training workshop. She never missed a day, and in one month she had her Certified Nurse Aide license. She was so excited and was able to find a job within days of completing the course. She expressed how grateful and blessed she is now to have her GED and CNA license. “I had wonderful and supportive instructors, and I am really inspired and motivated to strive for a better life for myself and my family.” Barbara is enjoying life and said she is in a comfortable place right now. She loves her job and what she is doing and is staying busy. “Life is good” she said. She doesn’t have plans to go back to school in the immediate future, but says, “There is peace in knowing that when I am ready, I know I can”.

Education is Power: Maria Carmen Avila’s Story

“I never thought I would be learning how to use the computer.” - Maria Carmen Avila

“I never thought I would be learning how to use the computer.” – Maria Carmen Avila

Maria Carmen Avila moved to the United States when she was 18 years old to live with her father. She soon grew homesick and moved back to Mexico. She returned to the United States when she was 22 with her two sisters, determined to stay. Carmen came with the sole purpose to work and help take care of her family. She had a 10th grade education, and going back to school was not even a remote goal for her.

She quickly started working 16 hours a day at two different jobs making minimum wage. The only time she was not working was when she started a family with her husband, and even then, she worked right up to the day before giving birth to her son. They expanded their family to four children, and each time Carmen went back to work.  One day, a friend of her husband was talking about free classes to learn English offered at Literacy Council. Carmen thought, “Why not?”  She needed to improve her English. Her job options were limited to housekeeping and restaurant kitchen work because her speaking skills were not good enough to communicate with customers. So she took the first step.

In September of 2012, Carmen enrolled in ESL classes at Literacy Council. She was an excellent student and worked very hard to improve her conversation skills. She then heard about the Dual Enrollment Program where she could learn a skill that would help her get a better job. She was nervous, but decided to take that next step and apply for the program. She did and was accepted, and received her Nurse Aide license in April of 2013. Things just kept getting better for Carmen. The Woman’s Fund, which sponsored her tuition for CNA training, also offered its participants interview and computer training through a grant administered through LCOT. Carmen never expected to be sitting in front of a computer learning how to use it, but she was, and was learning something new every day. Her instructor started the class with a quote, “Education is power. Power is education.” She is taking that to heart.  She jokes about her daughter telling her she was too old to learn how to use the computer.  She decided to change the background and add some special effects to the family computer one day while her daughter was at school.  She sat back and watched later that afternoon as her daughter was stunned and surprised as to “who messed with my computer?!”  Carmen proudly told her, “I did, and this is our computer.”

Carmen is learning everyday how much she can do and that she is not too old to learn.  She continues to attend her ESL class, but now has a new desire for more education. With continued ESL training and improved speaking skills, she is considering taking a new step to pursue her GED.  Her dream job now is to be a nurse. Education is power!