Adult Literacy: Turning Dream Goals Into Reality

Randall Hinson, Librarian, Office of Education and Literacy,
Learner Jamie Ferguson works with her tutor Catalina Gancz
Learner Jamie Ferguson works with her tutor Catalina Gancz at the San Pedro Branch Library. Photo credit: R Locke

In Adult Literacy Services, our dedicated volunteers and literacy coordinators work tirelessly to help adult learners, like Jamie Ferguson, achieve their goals. This is the story of their literacy journey together.

When Abel Santibañez, literacy coordinator at the Wilmington Branch Library, first met Jaime, she came in with a friend who had read about the adult literacy program online. Abel remembers Jamie being “a bit reserved, but she answered my questions and shared some information about her time in school. I could see that she wanted to learn.”

“I was in Special Ed all my life. Sometimes teachers helped me out, but not that much. I wanted to learn how to read really good, to learn how to read a letter or text people. Things like that.”—Jamie Ferguson

To help Jamie reach her goals, Abel matched her with Catalina Gancz, one of our amazing volunteer tutors. “When we first met, Jamie was a little bit on the quiet side, but very friendly,” says Catalina. “We've been together for a year in a half now, and she's really opened up. She tells me about things she’s been doing, about her work which she loves, walking the dogs, and spending time with her sister and her mom. She likes to show them how much she has improved in her reading.”

“Jamie is so outgoing and sure about herself and her goals now.” says Abel. “She often describes what she is doing with her tutor. She mentions she is learning new words and how to spell them. Her tutor told me Jaime is the one who calls her when it's time for her session. She is ready to go and finds it her responsibility to engage first. When she met her tutor for the first time, Jamie approached Catalina first to ask if she was waiting for her. She knows that things take work and you have to initiate and do that work. I think that demonstrates her seriousness and her wish to keep learning.”

“I like working with Catalina.” says Jamie. “The first time we met I didn't know if it was her or not, and she did not know if it was me. I was waiting for her in the library and I didn't know if it was her. I went over and asked, ‘Are you waiting for someone? Are you Catalina?’ and then she said, ‘Are you, Jamie?’ I said, ‘Yes!’”

Catalina says the time she and Jamie have spent together has been very rewarding for them both. “I feel very fulfilled because I know Jamie’s story and I know what she had to go through in school. They didn’t pay much attention to her work and just had her graduate high school with very few tools to get ahead in life. She’s progressed tremendously since then. She remembers more vocabulary and every time she can do something on her own, she feels very proud, because she has come a long way.”

“For me,” says Catalina, “it’s a great thing to be able to connect with Jamie and help her feel more secure and able to do more things than she used to. I love what I’m doing and feel very good about it. It’s a feeling that has no price whatsoever.”

Jamie says that Catalina and the adult literacy program have helped her so much. “Sometimes, when I get cards for my birthday or Mother's Day, I can read them now. Before, I had to ask my family to help me. Now, I know how to spell things. Yesterday, Catalina and I wrote a thank you note for our lesson. I did a thank you note for my mom, ‘Dear mom…’ and stuff like this. We did that and wrote words down and read books, sounding the words out. I would definitely recommend the program to other people!”

If you’re interested in volunteering with Adult Literacy Services, or you know someone who would like to improve their reading and writing in English, please email or call us at 213-228-7540. You can also find more information at