Family Literacy Friday: The exponential impact of what one mother can accomplish through education
November is National Family Literacy Month®, a time when we celebrate families who are working to better their lives and the tireless efforts of those working in family literacy and family-focused programs. Each Friday in November, we’re sharing an inspirational story of an adult learner who has participated in an NCFL family literacy program. This week, we’re sharing Peyton’s story:
Family literacy opened doors of endless possibilities for Peyton.
She had lost her parents at a young age. Her father was killed the day before she turned eight years old and her mother battled with drug addiction, spending her days either in prison or living on the streets. Peyton and her brother were forced to live with different relatives, and soon her brother started to make poor decisions, leading to his own incarceration. Then, at the age of 17, Peyton discovered she was pregnant with her daughter and she dropped out of high school.
“As a young mother, I was absolutely clueless as to what it took to raise a child. I wanted to finish school but I just didn’t know which way to turn,” she said. “I enrolled in night school to complete my high school education, but it wasn’t a good fit for me so I stopped going.”
By the time Peyton was 20, she was married and had given birth to her second child.
“Life was good and stable. I was a stay-at-home mom, and I absolutely loved that,” she said. “Yet my life was incomplete, because I secretly dealt with the shame of being a high school dropout. I dreaded being asked, ‘What year did you graduate?’ That one question often left me feeling like a failure but I never gave up on my dream to complete my high school education.”
But, in 1997, her dream came true.
Peyton learned of NCFL’s family literacy program from a flyer on the wall of a hospital where she was visiting her mother, who had just been given six months to live after testing positive for HIV. It was her mother’s urging for her to finish school that fueled Peyton’s motivation to enroll in the Toyota-NCFL program. Going to school while her mother was living out her last days was extremely difficult for her but the support she received from the family literacy staff pulled her through.
“My son and I were no longer a number in a program, we belonged to a family.”
Two weeks before her mother passed away, Peyton obtained her GED®.
“I know she was proud of me because she knew I finally finished what I wanted so badly,” she said.
After receiving her GED®, Peyton applied to be a pharmacy technician at Revco Drug Store. The minimum qualification was a high school diploma or GED®.
“Oh, I felt so proud to place a checkmark in the box on the application regarding my level of education: high school diploma or GED®,” she said. “And, guess what, I got the job!”
The family literacy program also gave Peyton the reinforcement she needed to be a great mother. Through scheduled activities, she learned the importance of being present and involved in her children’s education.
“When my daughter was a senior in high school, I recall her wanting to know why was I still coming to school to check on her. It was because I had learned and knew the importance of parental involvement,” she said.
In 1999, because of her involvement at her children’s school, she was encouraged by the teachers who knew her to apply for a paraprofessional position with the Atlanta Public School system. When she inquired about the position, she again learned the minimum qualification was a high school diploma or GED®—and, she got that job.
“NCFL’s family literacy program really changed the course of my entire life,” Peyton said, who eventually went on to graduate from Mercer University in Macon, Georgia.
Her daughter is now a biology major at Georgia State University and a part time teacher’s assistant at a childcare facility. Her son obtained his GED® and is currently working as a paraprofessional for the Atlanta Public School System and is planning to enroll in college to pursue a degree in Early Childhood Education.
“It is so hard to measure the exponential impact of what one mother can accomplish. I truly believe that the family that learns together excels together.”
Peyton is now the secretary at Dobbs Elementary School, where she can encourage other parents to discover the power of her school’s 21stCCLC afterschool program, free GED® classes and workshops, and parent and child activities designed to foster a bond and increase parental involvement.
We hope you’ll join the National Family Literacy Month celebration and share your story! Using #familyliteracymonth on Twitter and Facebook, share why family literacy is important to you, how it has impacted your life or those around you, or what you are doing to celebrate National Family Literacy Month. And don’t forget to join us for a Twitter chat at 8pm EST on Thursday, November 30, using #familyliteracymonth.
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