Project Literacy Adult Literacy

Success Stories

In its 30 years, Project Literacy has helped over 8,700 students to find help with reading, writing and speaking English. Here are some students’ stories: 

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Brenda finished high school in the Dominican Republic before immigrating to the US and owns a successful day-care center in Hawthorne. She wanted to offer a kindergarten as part of her programs, but this certification requires a college degree, and Brenda was unable to use her diploma from the Dominican Republic.

Brenda registered for the GED and applied for a Project Literacy tutor at the same time. She was matched with Catherine. Brenda passed all sections of the GED, except the math. After working with Catherine for nine months, Brenda re-took the test, passed it and is well on her way to fulfilling her goals!


Deepa had been in the US for two years when she applied for Project Literacy’s Carmen Pichardo Scholarship. Deepa wanted to take classes to improve her reading and writing. Her goal was to pass the GED (General Educational Development test, a high school equivalency exam).

With the help of the scholarship, Deepa enrolled in classes at the Bergen Community College Ciarco Learning Center. Three classes later, she took the GED. “Finally I passed!” said Deepa when she got her scores. “The most important thing is I studied hard, hard, hard. Sometimes I didn't have enough sleep because I was studying.”

Deepa continued, “In my country I didn't do it [pass high school], but here in the US I did it! In my language I didn't pass, but I did it in English! It's a new language for me.”

Deepa's daughter said she figured it all out by herself, and if Deepa didn't understand something she would turn to online sources.

“Today I ran a good race, a marathon.” And she won. Congratulations Deepa!

I came from West Africa in a country name Senegal. I came to America in 1998, I came in to this country without knowing how to even write my name properly because I never went to school before and the reason was that my parents could not afford it.

Coming to this country gives me the courage to believe that I can go to school and have an education. When I decided to have that education, I went to Bergen Community College and told them about my problem. They introduced me to Project Literacy. I have been in this program for four years.

Through this program, I was lucky to have the greatest teacher ever, her name is Miss Dorothy. Having a gentle teacher like her gives me the courage to learn a lot of things like English, bus Schedules and to be able to go places, and also she is the one who pushed to go for my High School Diploma. I wish she was here to tell you more about me. I can never thank her enough for what she did for me so do the people from Project Literacy who provided the program.

Now they give me a scholarship just to make my dream come through. I am very thankful for all of you who have put your hard work and energy to change my life. One thing for sure is that I never regretted for one second coming to this country. I will never forget this experience because it makes me believe that God exists, because if it wasn't for him, I would not be in this country to meet people like you.

Thanks to all of you, and God bless you!


Lester W. was born in Panama where he attended school until 11th grade when he was needed to got to work to help the family of nine siblings. Prior to that, Lester had rheumatic fever, causing him to lose a year of education. When he returned to school it was difficult to catch up.

He came to this country at the age of 40 and obtained work as a school custodian and later an airport security guard. He and his wife raised three children, providing all three with college educations.

At age 63, Lester decided to earn his high school equivalency diploma and began classes. However, he found it a difficult process and failed repeatedly. Project Literacy provided math tutoring assistance, and Lester passed. He applied for a better job and was accepted. His determination to learn new things has never ceased. Lester enjoys quoting this Chinese adage: “The longest journey begins with a single step.”


Tyrone T. was determined to obtain his high school equivalency diploma. He began attending classes at Bergen Community College Ciarco Learning Center and soon was meeting a volunteer tutor through Project Literacy who helped him prepare for the exam. This undertaking was especially challenging for Tyrone, as he was wheelchair-bound due to infantile cerebral palsy.

Tyrone has a strong and cheerful spirit and his determination won out and he passed his high school equivalency test. Tyrone is now fulfilling his dream of working as a mentor encouraging handicapped young people and adults to continue their education.


Thank God for giving me the will and determination to keep fighting for my GED. Since 1996 I have struggled to pass the math section of the test. About two years ago when I was taking classes, I found myself very frustrated with the math. I just couldn't comprehend it. It looked like one big puzzle.

I came to Project Literacy and signed up for a math tutor. Kathy matched me with the amazing John Katzianer. John is like an espresso. He gave me that boost of energy that I never thought I could get because I was too weak in math. He is as cool as a fan. He helped me realize that math and algebra were not a puzzle, but numbers hidden behind the puzzle of letters and symbols. He helped me to relax, and told me that if I couldn't solve the problem in two minutes or less, to leave it and come back to it.

I worked with John from January to April of this year, and I took the test on April 16. I got the results the following day. When I heard I passed, I didn't believe it at first.

John always said, "left to right". Whatever you do on the left side, you have to do on the right side in order to solve the problem. It was a joke, but not really a joke. His words helped me pass the test.

Many people have helped to pass the GED. I want to thank:

My tutor John Katzianer.

Jill Wright and Kathy O'Hara at Project Literacy.

Mr. Jackson, my sixth grade teacher and deacon, who taught me how to swim, and who is a math specialist with the New York City Board of Education.

My mother, Debra Johnson.

Wayne Pretlow, my spiritual brother, who gave me hope to persevere, and who always believed I would pass the GED.

Khadijah Allen, my anchor, my rock, my support, who always believed I could reach my goal.

Thank you everyone. I will always love you. I couldn't have done it without your support.


Shawn is a 42-year-old mother of four who dropped out of high school in the 12th grade because she was pregnant. She made six attempts to pass her high school equivalency exam but because of anxiety about math and test-taking, her score was low. At Project Literacy she worked with a dedicated volunteer, Rick Feinberg. Rick worked relentlessly with Shawn. They sometimes met twice a week for two hours at a time.

Shawn took her exam for the seventh time and because of the work she did with Rick, she was able to pass. She was ecstatic, and now hopes to go on to become a nurse.


I was born in Peru, South America. My father was Chinese and my mother was Peruvian. My daddy passed away when I was young. He believed in education but my mother and grandma, they were not so inclined. Although my daddy was a Buddhist he made sure he got me into a Catholic school run by the nuns from Canada. It was there that I received the first and best foundation for what was to become the foundation for my future education.

I married an American man and I came to America. He insisted that I learn English. This was important in my growing in a new language.

When my children were growing up I had to work and go to school while supporting my family. I never was able to finish my G.E.D. When my husband passed away and my children left my nest I felt depressed and lost in my own empty world. I was thinking my life was over and there was nothing to look forward to. I desired to go back to school and try to get my G.E.D. I always felt I was missing something.

When I attended class in Bergen Tech to study for my G.E.D., I felt lost. I didn't understand what they were teaching me. I was ready to drop out of school. A student told me about Project Literacy. I came to Bergen Community College and I met a nice lady from Project Literacy. She convinced me to stay in school. She said she could get me a tutor and she made me feel good about myself.

Now I feel confident with my tutor. My tutor's name is Linda Rosen. She is teaching me to read and write so now I like to go to school and I will not drop out of Bergen Tech. Now with the help of my tutor and Project Literacy I can continue to stay in the school and get my G.E.D. I can achieve my dream and set an example for my grandchildren. It is never too late to reach for your goals.


My name is Ganace. I grew up in a rural district in my native country, which is Guyana, South America. Guyana was formally a British colony where English is the first language. The educational system is very high in my country. However, for people like me who grew up in the rural country, formal education was not necessary. We were farm people who needed to work the land. Because of these circumstances, I did not get a formal education. I only went to school for about 3 years, where I did not learn anything. My father was more interested in me looking after the cattle, sheep, goat and farm than schooling.

When I came to this country, I saw so many opportunities around me but I couldn't grab any of them because of my inability to read and write. I have spent over fifty years of my life not knowing how to read and write properly. I can testify to the fact that it was real difficult to live that way. Everywhere I went I had to read or write some thing. I had to ask someone to help me.

When I had to fill out forms at doctors' offices, airports, in planes or job applications, I always had to ask someone to do it for me. I can tell you most times it isn't really easy to do that unless you are a very good actor. Many times when I went to those places and they gave me forms to fill out, I would pretend that I was looking for my spectacles by checking in my bag or my pockets; then, when I didn't find the spectacles, because they weren't there in the first place, I would go like a hypocrite and ask one of the office assistants or someone next to me to help fill it out because I didn't have my spectacles.



Hello, my name is Janice F. and I am from Paterson, New Jersey. I'm a mother of one and a grandmother. I have been working in a bank for the past 20 years. I'm one of those unique adults that when most people see me or talk to me they probably never guess that I have a problem with reading and writing.

Everyday I get up to go to a job where I am always afraid that somebody is going to find out that I can barely read and write. When you are an adult and you know that you have a problem with your education you try your very best not to be put in a situation where you have to read, write, or spell anything. When I first heard about Project Literacy and how the program works with adults that have problems with reading it motivated me to pick up the phone to call.

Before tutoring I didn't know how to write a paragraph from start to finish or an essay, but now I do and all this comes from only being in this program for about a year. I also started taking a reading class at Passaic County Community College around the same time as joining Project Literacy. Then I continued forward by taking a writing class. That was the first time I got an A in a college course! I hope to be able to at least get an Associate's Degree in Business Management so that I can open up my own dance school. Looking back on school in general, I should never have allowed anyone to tell me that I can't learn or let the kids bully me into believing that I was different than they were.

For so many years of my life, I have always wanted to be able to write whatever I want and not have to worry about all the mistakes that I made. I know I still have a long way to go with trying to catch up with the rest of the world, but if I keep pushing and believing in myself that I can do better I will make it.

Project Literacy is changing my life for the better. My tutor Ms. Katie volunteers once a week to work with me on improving my education and I truly want to thank her for all her hard work. She has been a blessing in my life. I hope that this program will be around forever because I know that I am not the only adult who feels embarrassed and nervous about asking for help. Thank you all for motivating me and encouraging me to believe in myself especially Kathy and Ms. Katie. Thank you.


Iíve been a student of Project Literacy for about two years. My first contact with this program was at an event I was working. At first Mr. Reddin observed that I couldnít speak English. He explained to me that Project Literacy is a free program where tutors volunteer work with students who have basic education needs. I started thinking, maybe for a short time, but I couldnít imagine the great work they do, how much they help me and of course other students.

This program is different than any other type of learning English. Because of we are working one to one my teacher can focus exactly on my needs. The program is flexible. My teacher allows me to choose the topic, or what I would like to work on. That makes me feel comfortable, no stress doing homework and very interesting type of learning.

My teacher, Mr. Paul Talarico, is very kind and knowledgeable person who is dedicated to helping others. Besides helping me to improve my English, he teaches me about American history, different cultures and customs, and much more. He is my mentor. I feel free to ask him about anything.

Also being a student of Project Literacy makes me try to be a better person. Watching all these people who dedicate their knowledge, their time, their money, makes me ask myself: What am I doing for helping others? I try to help others even on everyday simple things. In the future I look forward to volunteering and maybe I can make a difference in someone elseís life.

In my opinion Project Literacy is a wonderful program. All the staff are doing a very great job. I hope in the future they will help more people who need help. I feel thankful to be a student of Project Literacy. Iím grateful that Mr. Talarico is my teacher and I believe that what they do is appreciated. Project Literacy has made a big difference in my life.


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