U.S. Born Adult Learners – Challenges and Successes
Written by Amy Letteney, First Literacy Development Director
As the importance of community colleges has become part of the public consciousness, this integral step in an adult’s educational dreams is out of reach for the 43 million potential students in the United States who possess low English literacy skills. It’s sometimes assumed that these adults are new to the country, but the U.S. Department of Education asserts that adults born in this country make up two-thirds of this number.
How U.S. Born Adult Learners Fall Through the Cracks of Our Education System
There are many reasons U.S. born adult learners find themselves struggling with low English literacy. Some have life events that impact their education, some are high school dropouts, and others don’t receive the education they need an early age to start them on the path to success. Many of these adult learners also lack the support needed to succeed and reach their full potential.
For First Literacy scholar, Julia, adjusting to a typical school setting was a challenge because she didn’t enter a classroom until she was nineteen. Her unconventional upbringing did not include public education. After working with a community-based adult education program, Julia obtained her high school equivalency and enrolled in a Veterinary Technician program, which she graduated from in June of 2022.
One of our newest scholars, Mark struggled to complete high school, and after the loss of his father he became homeless. Mark found a helping hand at a community adult education program and received his diploma. He now has a 3.6 GPA and is pursuing a degree in business.
Why Scholarships for Adult Learners
Over the past twenty-two years, First Literacy has awarded more than 500 scholarships to adults pursuing a college degree or certificate. Many of the scholars are native English speakers, born in the United States who, for reasons as diverse as the learners themselves, did not receive a high school diploma.
Like Julia and Mark, First Literacy scholars are on the path to improving their lives. Many are first-generation college students who also have the opportunity to affect change to the value placed on education by the entire family and improve the likelihood of others reaching higher levels.
Perhaps best said by First Literacy Scholar Lauretta who was born and raised in South Boston.
“I live and was raised in an institution of bricks where it’s uncommon to work or go to college, but normal to get food stamps… I knew that I had to educate myself in order to become employable, so I started my college career… Today I am also the executive of my family. I make serious and educated choices. I pay my bills first and I live within my means. Although I’m not wealthy, I’m financially independent.”
Through hard work, Lauretta achieved her educational goals, ending the cycle of dependence and opened the door to more stable employment with opportunities for advancement, financial stability and the potential for an easier road for her young son.
At First Literacy we are on a mission to change lives through the power of education. Lauretta, Julia and Mark are just three inspiring examples of how First Literacy scholarships make a difference in the lives of U.S. born adult learners.