Educating Mothers This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category.


     What is it like not beingable to read? How does an illiterate person survive? These are questions I hadnever thought about before visiting Mercy Learning Center.

Not only is ithard to live as an illiterate, but illiteracy and poverty often go hand-in-hand.By teaching mothers to read, Mercy Learning Center is trying to stop illiteracyfrom continuing from one generation to the next. At the Center, the truth aboutilliteracy hit me like a ton of bricks. The women there taught me a valuablelesson: literacy is something no one should take for granted.

The women atthe Learning Center are low-income single mothers who lack both self-esteem andself-reliance. For them, it was uncomfortable to attend their children's schoolfunctions or ask questions at the doctor's office. They were isolated by theirinability to read.

I never imagined the pain illiteracy causes. At theCenter, I witnessed their empowerment and, most importantly, saw them learninghow to help themselves. Education raises self-confidence, pride and the abilityto challenge the cycle of poverty. The importance and power of this mission areextraordinary.

Many women come to the Center for their families. They wantto set an example and lead better lives for their children. One woman came to theCenter knowing only the first letter of her name, Yolanda. She talked about heranguish of not being able to help her children do their homework or read them abedtime story. Eyes brimming with tears, she recounted the night her 16-year-olddaughter asked her to read to her. Yolanda's daughter explained that herchildhood dream was that one evening her mom would read her a story. Now she canfinally fulfill this dream, which has created a new bond between them.

Yolanda's story made me realize how important bedtime stories were in myown life. I grew up in a home where academics, especially reading, was valued. Myparents encouraged me to do my best in school. I took for granted how blessedI've been to grow up in a reading-rich environment. I have not only beenencouraged to succeed academically, but had the benefit of their help.

In battling illiteracy, the women at Mercy Learning Center also encourage theirchildren's academic success. As students, these mothers demonstrate theimportance of learning as a central family value.

As Sister Eileen toldme, these women are like the chrysanthemum. Just as this flower survives theharsh winds of winter, so do these women. They continue, even in the face ofoverwhelming obstacles. They are some of the most inspiring people I've ever met.Through their bravery, they are challenging the cycle of illiteracy. Just as myparents showed by example how important learning is, these women are showingtheir children. Perhaps by "educating a mother," the Sisters of Mercywill not only "educate a family" but help the families develop skillsenabling them to rise above poverty. Literacy is key.




This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category. This piece won the February 2001 Teen Ink Community Service Contest.






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