Our Students' Voices

Who are our students? While we respect the privacy of our adult students and take many measures to ensure their confidentiality, some of them enjoy coming forward to share their experiences. Their words follow with tales about their efforts towards literacy, cultural experiences and a few fictional stories.

Rashed: My LVA Experience
Farhia: A book review of Her Own Place
Paul: Notes from a speech
Janice: The First Tea
Anonymous Student: Traditional Bosnian Weddings
Monazza: Autobiography

How Has LVA Helped Me Achieve My Goals?
My name is Rashed. I graduated from college in my country a while back in 1995. Writing error free in English has always been a challenge for me. I have got good ideas and somewhat good organizational skills, but expressing those ideas on the paper sometime drives me frustrated. Especially, prepositions, articles, and parts of speech errors seem uncontrollable. I have signed up for a couple of grammar and writing classes at NVCC, but they were not so effective. I needed some personal attention. One day I was at the Chinn Library and asked someone at the information desk if there are any English teaching classes available in Prince William County. She handed me a brochure for the Literacy Volunteers. It was one of the great discoveries in my life! Next day, I called the LVA office. Within a week they scheduled me for an interview and test session. I was caught by surprise for their dedication and exceptional services they offer in the community. I expressed my frustrations and they promised f or assistance. They said there was someone interested in tutoring and he could be a perfect match for my background and need. His name was Mr. Bob Pond. A week later, I received a call from Mr. Pond and met him on Saturday at the Chinn Library. I was very happy to meet him. His vast knowledge in the subject, interest in teaching and a great friendly personality made me comfortable and motiviated me to write in free style. We decided to meet once a week for an hour or more. Since I started the tutoring session with Mr. Pond, not only have I improved my writing skills, I also regained my confidence in writing. I am extremely grateful for the service that LVA offers. It is a blessing for those who still struggle to learn proper English language and writing. I truly wish their expansion and greater presence in Prince William and in other parts of Northern Virginia.

"Her Own Place" by Dori Sanders, A Book Report
I enjoyed reading this book. The author who wrote this book has a lot of experience writing books. When I started to read in this book, I couldn’t wait to finish. Any time I had time, I read. I got a lot of new vocabulary and the book was easy to understand and not boring. Sometimes I got confused, but I enjoyed the story. When I started the book I was thinking that I might not finish, but I did. I have read many books, and it was easy to understand this book because it does not have words from another language – it is all English. So, it will be helpful because even if you don’t understand some of the words, you will get the main idea. When I finished the book, I remembered the story. This is a good book for an adult to read. It is not too hard, and I always wanted to know what would happen next. I have difficulty reading some books, but not this one. I will keep reading until I get to my goal.
Farhia's tutor is Mary Langley.

Paul, age 35, from Dumfries.
Notes from a speech given at an LVA-PW Annual Social
The most important part of my day was how to keep my secret. I used to plan out every activity so I could avoid what I considered an embarrassing handicap.

My cover up started in school. I would rather throw a pencil at a teacher to get thrown out of class than to read in front of the class. I would act the bad ass if I couldn't join in on group discussion. That started enough behavior problems to get me thrown in and out of schools. All my energy went into hiding my secret.

Vocational classes were the only thing that saved me. I was good with my hands. Not being able to read made me concentrate on my verbal and mechanical skills. I became an expert at improvising. PBS and the Discovery Channel became my history and science classes.

I couldn't read or write well. But I was expert at hiding it, even my ex-wife never knew I could not read or spell. Friends and family-I fooled them all-even myself.

I would sit in the car and copy the store's name onto my check. Most of the time I would write the check for the amount that I knew how to spell like twenty-five or fifteen or ten. Sometimes I copied the word from the dollars in my wallet. I would have to be careful not to buy more than the check was made out for.

When I would go into the store I would look for people who worked there so I could ask them where things were. I could not read the category signs. So I would look for things that looked familiar.

At work if I had to write or read something I would pass it off to someone else or not do it. For example, I would give it to a co-worker and say I had to make a phone call or run an errand. It even affected my personal life. For example, when I was playing Trivial Pursuit and it would be my turn to read the question I would pass it off or say I needed a beer. As a matter of fact, that is how I told my friends one night when we playing that game. These friends went to school with me from first grade through high school. I was tired of hiding the fact that I had trouble reading.

So after I told my friends that I could not read or write much, I decided just to live with it. I was convinced that I could not learn the sills necessary because so many people tried to help me and I tried so hard myself. It's when I decided to join the Volunteer Fire Department and went to my first class and realized there would be a lot or reading. I decided to try again.

So I asked my wife to make some phone calls and she found Literacy Volunteers of America.

Janice, Triangle area, a student for two years, read at the LVA Banquet
The First Tea
Hi, my name is Janice. My teacher's name is Eleanor Young. I am a student of Literacy Volunteers of America, and I'd like to read you a story about my first Tea.

Peggy, a lady at the church I attend, picked me up and we went to a Tea. Ms. Hamilton met us at the door. She was wearing an 18th century dress and bonnet. Peggy and I came early and got good seats. At each table there were place settings with real crystal glasses and china teacups and plates. The waitress filled our crystal water glasses. Later she brought out a pot of brewed tea. Each time she brought out a different tea, she told us the name of the tea. That was very much a part of the program. Next she brought out sparkling apple cider and filled our wine glasses.

On each table were crystal bowls of sugar cubes and silver tongs. Also on another dish were slices of lemon and something I had never seen before. It seemed to be sugar and cinnamon made into pieces to be dropped into your hot tea.

I just wish you had been there. I know you would have enjoyed it too. Thank you.

An anonymous student with LVA for 18 months
Traditional Bosnian Weddings
When girls get married they can be married in a mosque or in front of a judge. For the wedding ceremony in a mosque the bride must wear a long sleeved shirt or top and a long dress down to her ankles. Your arms and legs must be covered. She would then have a scarf on her head. The man wears pants and a jacket that match in color. He would have a round hat on his head.

Both of the bride's parents walk her to the minister and groom. They give their permission for their daughter to marry. If the groom has a sister, she will stand next to the bride also. The groom's parents are seated. The bride will carry the Koran. This will tell her the rules to obey. The groom's parents give all the money for the ceremony and the party.

Traditionally, the party is held at the groom's home. Muslim men may drink wine and beer at the party after the wedding ceremony. The women may not drink alcohol and will drink juice or Pepsi. The groom's mother bakes the cake. It is normally 3 levels and white frosting. It does not matter what flavor cake it is. The groom's mother bakes baklava. The will roast many lambs. All the relatives come to the wedding. We give gifts of gold. If you give clothes they rip, if you give furniture, it can break, but gold will be with you, it lasts forever.

After the party there is no honeymoon. The bride's family goes home. The groom's family are tired. The bride gets to clean up after the party by herself. No one helps her and that is the tradition. The bride will be sleeping and living with her in-laws. The bride has become part of their family.

Thank you!

I recall at ten years old. I lived in Pakistan with my family. We were a big family, 6 sisters and 4 brothers. I was the youngest of the group. As a baby I had many medical problems that caused me a lot of pain. I could not play like many of my friends. Due to a spinal injury that occurred after I was born, I had problems moving my hands and my arms. This caused me to have problems writing. I also had problems with my hearing. This problem was easily solved by hearing aids that I received in Pakistan. I also had some vision problems but this was not to be discovered until I arrived in America. Within a years time my brother, Chummi, had made arrangements to send my mother and I to America. It was at this time that I received my first pair of eyeglasses. I was so happy to be able to see clearly. Truly, America was as beautiful as I had heard. My brother arranged for my education in John Admas School. My family told me that I was growing up and I would need to become more responsbile. My father had passed away and therefore, I would need to be able to take care of my mom. I would also need to be able to look after myself. Attending the American school was a new experience forr me. For example, the teacher looked much different than I was use to. She was African American, she had short curly hair. She was about average height. She spoke very softly, I was glad I had my hearing aid. The children were very friendly and the teacher was very understanding of my adapting to the new life in America. The school hours were 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays. Though the environment was much different than what I was accustomed to I did not feel like a misfit. I was a short girl for my age.

I stood less than 4 ft. tall but I was able to make good friends who liked me and I liked them. After coming to America and completing my sixth grade school year, my mother and I had become homesick. We missed our family and food. We visited Pakistan for one year. There I had to repeat some of the 6th grade when we arrived back into the United States 1 year later. I lost track of my friends everything had changed by now my brother had moved to Maryland. My life made a second drastic change. I arrived back in America in January and had to have surgery for my spine in March. This surgery changed my life. I had to be in a wheel chair for the first time in my life. I had to endure pain that was sometimes unbearable. I went to the doctor for regular visits for my spine the doctor had placed a medal rod in my back. The pain was so great until a second surgery was required to remove the rod from my back. It was during this time that a third surgery was being scheduled to correct the problems with my hands. But soon I was able to read books, play the computer games and spend time with my mother. While attempting to learn to walk again, I fell in my brother's basement and fractured my right leg. I had to have a fourth-major surgery. This one involved me having two screws and two rods put in my right leg for the rest of my life. Though I had more medical problems than I was born with, I was learning to manage them. I could not complete my story without telling about my brother, Chummi. He has been very loving and very kind to me throughout my life. My brother takes care of my mother and me. He takes us out on the weekends after he has worked all week long. My brother is a very hard working person. He has recently enrolled me in an English as a Second Language class, he encourages me to do better and work hard. His dreams for me have not died. I currently have a tutor who works with me sometime 3x a week to improve my English and reading comprehension. I feel confident that with hard work and prayer I will be able to complete my ultimate goal of finishing my GED. I want to graduate with a Computer Science degree just as my brother. I know it is not going to be easy, but I am preparing to take the challenge.