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Adult literacy and citizenship education organization receives grants

Published: Sep. 5, 2014 at 10:28 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 12, 2014 at 2:41 PM CDT
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ALTUS, Okla._The Great Plains Literacy Council recently received a grant which will help further their reach for adult literacy.

The organization's mission is to provide basic adult literacy services in Jackson and Harmon counties. They're currently working to expand citizenship and literacy education, targeting adults who speak English as a second language. A recent grant for $5,000 is helping them achieve that goal.

The grant money will help them pay for advertising while also helping them increase their staff of tutors, which in turn will allow them to help more students.

Kimly Pang moved from Cambodia to the United States in 2004. She obtained a Green Card while living in Boston, but despite living in the U.S. legally, she could not read, speak or write English or even drive a car.

"When you don't know, it's like everything is dark. It's hard. It's hard," said Pang.

She moved to Altus five years later to start a donut shop with her husband. But pang wanted more, her citizenship. A customer at the shop told her about the Great Plains Literacy Council. She quickly started working weekly with a literacy tutor but it wasn't easy.

"I said, 'I want to run away,' but I told my self no. If I do that, I can't do anything," said Pang.

Pang learned basic phonics as well as American history through flash cards, notebooks and computer games to prepare for the test. A little over a year later, she gained her citizenship which will allow her to do much more.

"I can go vote like a citizen," said Pang excitedly.

The council's coordinator Ida Fay Winters says Pang is just one of the many success stories. In the past four years, the Great Plains Literacy Council has helped 34 people obtain a citizenship.

"It's been a great domino affect of people realizing there's a need. There are very few services that give direction and show resources available through the library," said Winters.

Winters says she's been with the organization for ten years and has always been fascinated with literacy. She enjoys when the adult learners share the same passion.

"We're so excited when our students say, 'I want to come back. We want to learn more. I'm helping others. I'm recruiting others'," said Winters.

It's the compassion from the tutors and the will to learn that keeps Pang coming back. She is grateful for the help she has received to overcome one of her biggest obstacles.

"I can't believe myself. I can do it! I told my mom. I said, 'I can't believe I've had the best teacher. Everything is clear!' It's very good," said Pang.

Pang has also been given another award for 'ESL Adult Learner of the Year.'

The Great Plains Literacy Council was just awarded another grant for $15,000.