Honoring JP adult learners and tutors

May 25, 2007
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Going back to school as an adult can be anxiety provoking, hopeful, confusing, or joyful, but it is universally challenging. Some of the barriers adults face are balancing school with child-care and family responsibilities, inflexible employers or ever-changing work schedules, housing problems and homelessness, health problems, and immigration issues.

Boston’s third annual Adult Education and Literacy Week was May 14 to May 20. The Jamaica Plain/Egleston Square Adult Education Network (JP/ESAEN) is honoring three adult learners and a volunteer tutor for their outstanding accomplishments.


Gilberto Diaz Castro

Gilberto Diaz Castro arrived in Boston from Colombia in October 2004. He came here with his wife, Lilia, and younger daughter, with hopes of experiencing a new culture and a new way of life. Castro has faced many challenges, however. An architect in Colombia, he found that, because he spoke little English the only jobs available to him were in cleaning and dishwashing. He enrolled in the Jobs for JP program at the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation and took a job working nights at a large retail store in Quincy. He currently does cleaning and maintenance work from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. Even though his 12-hour shift leaves him exhausted, three days a week, after work, Castro goes to English class at the Jamaica Plain Community Centers Adult Learning Program.

Castro knows the weight of responsibility. He got married at the age of 22 and quickly became a father, husband, worker and student. All his adult life he has balanced full time work, studies and family. He leads a simple life, saying he would prefer to lie under a tree gazing up at the sky than go out dancing. He hopes to get a day job soon and to have more time to study and help his daughter apply to colleges here in Boston. One day, he hopes to again work in the field of architecture. Meanwhile, he diligently comes to class every day.

Luz Henao

Luz Henao is a dynamic and personable young woman enrolled in Oficina Hispana’s English Literacy Program. Henao came to the United States more than seven years ago. Originally, it was hard for Henao to leave her family and native Colombia for a country so far away, but she made the sacrifice because she had dreams and hopes for herself and for her family. Currently, she is both working and attending English classes part time. Her long-term professional goal is to become an interpreter in the medical field.

Since moving here she has achieved many other significant goals. She saved enough money to buy her mother a beautiful home in Colombia. She moved from the Intermediate to the Advanced Level in the ESOL Program at Oficina Hispana in a short period of time. She has also made many new friends in America, while continuing to speak with her family in Colombia every week. Luz is well thought of by her classmates and teachers who predict that she will achieve her educational and professional goals.

Roy Plump

Roy Plump worked very hard preparing to take the GED (high school equivalency) test in the Bromley-Heath Tenant Management Corporation (TMC) GED Program, which ran for 16 weeks from November through February. Plump took the examination and was the highest overall scorer in the class. He said he is determined to put in the effort to improve his job opportunities.

Instructors in the program were from Roxbury Community College and a local charter school. Twenty-three students enrolled, and eleven completed the course. The students were African American and Latino males, ages 17 to 28. All the students were from the Bromley-Heath community.

Right now the attendees of the GED program are in the process of taking the final test at Roxbury Community College, waiting to purchase the photo identification needed to take the final test, or still studying for the test in certain subject areas.

The Bromley-Heath TMC is planning a graduation ceremony once the attendees have taken the final GED test.

Betsy White

Betsy White became a volunteer with Friends of the Shattuck Shelter’s Adult Literacy program in 2002 and she has been a faithful teacher and tutor ever since. White had little experience as a literacy volunteer, but she had a strong interest in the program’s mission: to help homeless men learn to read and write.

White was very surprised by the low literacy levels she found in the population; so many of the men were unprepared for successful work life. The need for literacy volunteers was great; Betsy realized this was an opportunity to make a difference.

“I’m appreciative of what I’ve had in my life,” White says. “I wanted to give back. By training the clients how to read and write, I found a great way to help them help themselves.”

Friends of the Shattuck Shelter, a non-profit organization located on the campus of the Lemuel Shattuck Hospital in Jamaica Plain, is dedicated to preventing and ending homelessness among men and women by helping them achieve self-sufficiency and secure and maintain permanent housing. The Friends serve more than 4,500 people each year. To learn how to volunteer with the adult education program or other ways to help, please contact Whitney Riddell at 983-0351 x37 or wriddell@shattuckshelter.org.

For more information about Literacy Week or JP/ESAEN, contact Lee Haller at the Jamaica Plain Community Centers Adult Learning Program, 635-5201.

Submitted by the Jamaica Plain/Egleston Square Adult Education Network.