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25,000 Stories in 25 Years…

posted Dec 12, 2012, 1:07 PM by Crissy Nolen   [ updated Dec 12, 2012, 1:07 PM ]
When you first see Abhiola Isokpehi she seems to be a very quiet and almost painfully shy young woman. What does not come immediately to mind is tremendous strength and courage, yet these are the traits that she has used to survive and radically change her life in the last five years. Abhiola Isokpehi is 32 years old and was born in Nigeria. She was raised along with her sister and two brothers by parents that existed in abject poverty and no one in her family had ever received any formal education. As a young woman, Abhiola knew there would be no chance for her to attend school because her parents could not afford the tuition. There were no free schools in her area. She, as most other women in her world, married young and had children, but as she settled into the only life she had ever imagined she knew that she wanted more, for her future and that of her family. She decided, like many before her, that she would come to America.

Fast forward five years. Abhiola is living in Fort Bend County, working as a braider in a local salon, and sending money home every week so that the two young children she was forced to leave behind are able to attend the schools she herself could not. One morning her husband comes to her and tells her he has found a place online that offers free English classes, and asks whether she would she like to go. This is where you begin to see how very courageous this young woman is. She agrees and becomes the 25,000th student to register at the Literacy Council of Fort Bend County.

When she arrives her English and literacy skills are evaluated; she is placed in a Level 2 ESL class which she attends regularly even though she realizes early on that she does not understand as much as the other students in her class. Through the close mentoring she receives from her tutor, Jasmine, she realizes she would be better suited in a Basic Literacy class with a one-on-one tutor so that she could improve her speaking skills, as well as learn to read and write.

Today, Abhiola works closely with her teachers to improve these skills. She wants to take the GED test and register in college to pursue her lifelong dream of becoming a nurse. She wants to help people in pain. She wants to see her children come to the United States and knows that they can do anything they set their hearts and minds to because they will be able to see what she has done. She wants to teach them not to be afraid to ask for help, or be ashamed to let others know you don’t always understand what is being said around you, and she wants to thank everyone that has helped her along the way. Without the Literacy Council of Fort Bend County, its dedicated tutors and staff and its generous supporters, this story - her story and the stories of the 24,999 other students that have passed through the Literacy Council’s door would have had very different endings.