Julia Ridge and Francina Jordan

50 StoriesEnglish Language + LiteracyVolunteer

Julia Ridge has been tutoring LearningWorks student Francina Jordan through our English Language + Literacy program since 2011. Francina came to LearningWorks after her son encouraged her to find a tutoring program. He said, “You’re never too old to learn.” Francina, who has dyslexia, says, “I worked all my life not knowing how to read, and in recent years, I had worked at a hospital where I felt humiliated for not being able to read. I was really scared to let people know, but I wanted to learn more than anything. I had wanted to learn for a long time. I had to be strong. It takes guts to walk through the door and say, ‘I cannot read.’ I thought so many people would think I was stupid, as I have throughout my years of not reading. But, I finally decided to do it.”

Julia says that her experience volunteering for LearningWorks has been transformational. When she found out Francina had dyslexia, she enrolled in an intensive tutor training program designed for people working with students with dyslexia. “My experience with Francina means that I have worked with a strong and dedicated student who was and is determined to change her life by learning to read. It is inspiring to see someone so capable. Systems throughout her life had failed her. Francina and I continue to target phonemic awareness, phonological awareness, and word recognition. We practice reading. She does her homework, and we progress. She is remarkable in her attendance to her needs and her willingness to do this very difficult job.”

Francina says, “LearningWorks changed my life, because I am not afraid anymore. I am more confident with reading. I have learned, and I am still learning.”

Both Francina and Julia hope that their story inspires other people to come forward for help and helps teachers see the value in patience when working with their students. As Francina says, “It takes time to do this.”

When asked about LearningWorks’ impact, Julia said, “I think LearningWorks is a wonderful, safe, welcoming resource in the community. As a volunteer, I have learned it is a place where it is not about test scores, but it is a place where you test your resolve; you test your determination in order to become empowered. It is a place where a volunteer can discover what it feels like to help make a difference in the life of someone else. And it is a place where students, no matter what age or background, can learn to believe in themselves and reach their potential. That is a win-win formula.”

Photography Courtesy of Claire Houston | clairehouston.wordpress.com/