Our Voices

Donna Jones: Learner Leader, July - August 2010
Scary Things Turned Memorable by Donna Jones
“Literacy isn’t a big deal,” “I have to struggle a huge amount, so what,” “I never want to go to school again,” these were my thoughts. One day, my crystal ball warned me to start job hunting soon. My thoughts changed to “Literacy is a big deal,” “I won’t be able to bluff anymore.” I failed at bone head English at City College. I failed at self teaching. I failed at getting into one adult literacy program.

Determined and desperate I tried and got into Project Read of South San Francisco. Soon after, I somehow knew (woman’s intuition), this is where fate wanted me. I didn’t know why. I got a forever tutor, George Santore, who I greatly appreciate.
Donna Jones

Happiness is being part of a family of adults, like me who struggle with their reading and writing. I fit in. Yeah!! When asked to volunteer, I do it with fear but pushing myself and having role models (my tutor, directors, and other adult learners on the Learner Planning Team) is necessary for me and helps me better able to give back. The desire to give back and help other adult learners grows and grows. I try very hard to never say no when asked to do something. When I really want to say no, George, my tutor, points out how I might grow from doing it. I think about it for a day or two, then agree to do it.

The things that I am most afraid of doing turns out to be memorable - writing my first letter, giving my first speech and workshop. There isn’t just one memorable thing, these are all equal and have a purpose in mine and hopefully others’ lives:

Project Read South San Francisco
Showing up to my first tutoring session and learner planning team meeting; sitting among the other adult learners learning something new and feeling their friendship and support. What a comfort it is to know they are there.

Writer to Writer Challenge
Created and presented the workshops. The most rewarding is to see the adults there wanting to learn. Later to see some of them again, getting their awards at the ceremony luncheon or to be able read their letters in the Writer to Writer book.

Being the editor of their newsletter’s student column, conference planning team and Women’s Perspective Writing Committee. The scariest task Mev Miller, the director, asked me to do was give the 2009 keynote address. I knew I would be setting the tone for the entire conference and I didn’t want to let anyone down, especially the students.

Being on the Student Advisory Council and later to chair it as well as being on the Governance Council. I got to be part of creating and being the speaker for the call to action at the First Adult Learner Rally in Little Rock, Arkansas. This rally helped the staff, volunteers, and learners of literacy programs all across the USA to truly realize what power and strength they have for the cause of adult literacy.

Not wanting children struggle in and hate school like I did, my dog, Gaea, and I volunteer at a children’s reading program where they get to sit next to Gaea and read to him. It is a great experience to know that my dog and I are giving back to the next generation.

None of this could ever have been done with out the support of both my personal family and literacy family of Project Read, WELEARN, ProLiteracy and my friends. Giving back is what gives me the drive and push to do things that need to be done.

Congratulations Donna for your accomplishments and volunteerism!