Adult Literacy Program: David’s success story

David is a beautiful, creative, driven, and rare person in this world that we are grateful to know through our GED tutoring program. In this interview, David shares his experience with ADHD and dyslexia, two commonly intertwined learning disabilities/differences. While ADHD and dyslexia have been significant obstacles in David’s education, they have also been the source of his uniqueness and artistry, which he expresses through drag. You can find him performing as Ophelia Love at O. Henry’s, Asheville Beauty Academy, Miss Gay Latina, and other drag shows in the Asheville area. 

David’s essay explores the role that art, performance, beauty, passion, and PRIDE have played in his life. He chose to write this essay with spellcheck off and completely unedited so the audience can get a small glimpse into how language works in the mind of a dyslexic person. “Ophelia Ballet” is a complicated, liberated work of art — just like David himself:

Ophelia Balla

“I wish that you could see the ballai that in my mind. Each day we all straggle with something. I have learned new ways to adapet to these curstamances. To give you some background this is how I interpret my mind through music dance and performing. My bally is about me reaching for my dreams as a female inpersonater. Lets take a trip through my mind t let you see how beautiful I am. Not to be confused I know that I am beautiful and I love myself and proud of what  I have became as an entertainer. My balla starts with the three people and the main charter as Ophelia love and the struggles from her life that are from the past to present. Ophelia started out dancing as kid. Throughout the years she would learned this was they only thing that help me get through those though times. Then engment between these three people would last a life time though that never happen as we all got older and parted our ways. I think of those days and remember how it impacted me in ways no one would be able to usndertand. I’ve yet to perform this on any stage. But one day everyone will see the inter beauty that has come a long with this understanding. The music is soft a then travels through others people body mind and soal. Then is transfered  into the mind of a dancer that dose not know how to tell anyone of this gift in fear that it would be taken from them. As the music slowly reaches Ophelia she in transvered to  different unitferse and starts to think of what is happen to her. Then she come to the conclusion that maybe she is craxy but that not the true. I once read something that I could alawalys rember this qout “To be Or not to be which was written by William Shakespears. Wow how much this would inspire Ophelia. Ophelia begen to wonder how this would be perceived though the other dancers only to find that she was the only on that would be able to see it. I then beagn to dance as if I was a ballarrina only to have people make fun of me. This didn’t stop me I know that I would on day be able to perform it on stage. That time has come but have to work with dancers that don’t know. This such a scury thing I want people to see the interbeauty inside of Ophelia only to tell her she not any good or that she has talent.”

Would you like to support students like David? Learn how to become an Adult Literacy Program volunteer tutor!

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The Youth Literacy Program Partners with M.A.N.O.S. and the Asheville YMCA

Great news! The Youth Literacy Program has expanded the paid internship program to include the W. Buncombe Elementary School after-school program run by the Asheville YMCA. Three Erwin High School teens participating in the M.A.N.O.S. program were selected for this internship.

The M.A.N.O.S. program (Mentoring and Nurturing Our Students) offers mentorship, support, and resources to help students achieve their academic and career goals. The program works to cultivate a culture of academic achievement, social engagement, and community accountability among Latino youth. 

Some of the activities and services offered by M.A.N.O.S. include academic tutoring, college and career exploration, leadership development, and community service opportunities. The partnership with the Youth Literacy Program is a terrific avenue to support these goals!

The interns provide 1:1 reading tutoring to elementary-age students in the after-school program. The interns received training on effective literacy instructional strategies and have been provided resources and materials to use with their students. The tutoring pairs meet Monday through Thursday during the Y.M.C.A. after-school program to work on literacy skills, including phonics skills, vocabulary development, fluency, and reading comprehension. In addition, the tutors use literacy games, children’s literature, and engaging lessons to inspire the students to become strong readers. Learn more about the Igniting Superheroes Readers internship

Learn more about the Youth Literacy Program

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Our 14th Annual Authors for Literacy Dinner & Auction was a success!


We had a fantastic evening! Silas’ keynote was terrific, and we are so happy we met him in person! So here he’s with some board members. 

In this photo, our ESOL student Dulce is holding author Silas House’s book, and he’s holding Dulce’s first story. Dulce spoke to the audience and shared her experience as a student and her intention to be a writer and a motivational speaker.


There is still time to contribute to our Fund-A-Need auction. You can donate HERE.

 Thank you to everyone who came. We appreciate you! See the highlights of the night generously taken by Jesse Kitt, Jesse Kitt Photography.


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Being a tutor for Literacy Together (by Martha, an ESOL tutor)

Reading the local paper, I learned that 88 Afghan refugees were being brought to Asheville for resettlement after they escaped from Kabul. Wow, I thought, why Asheville?

The article said a local not-for-profit sought volunteers to become tutors. “No expertise is needed,” Literacy Together promised they could train volunteers to become effective tutors.

I did not believe they could train me to be a good English tutor, but they did make that promise.

I often thought, “I wish there was something I could do,” but the situations I read about seemed too enormous or global for me to make any difference. But here was this request, right before me, where just one person could contribute. All my doubts and insecurities about competence stayed present, but I decided to sign up and see what happened.

At the start of the first tutor training session with Erin, she said by the end of the lesson, we would all be able to read and understand the page of German she presented. I was sure she must be talking to others, not me! 

As the training session progressed, I saw what a great teacher Erin was and how she made it all seem effortless, fun, and enjoyable. Finally, at session’s end, I could read that page in German. Suddenly, this seemed possible. The textbooks Erin provided for us contained the same excellent teaching tools.

Now trained and committed, I waited. Once the refugees arrived, Erin would test and assess skill level to determine which refugee to assign to which tutor. I got to pick from several options of times and places for tutoring.  

I had picked Tuesdays and Thursdays from 12:30 pm to 2 pm. Within a few weeks, I found out I would be tutoring an 18 year old female student. She was arriving in Asheville with a sister, brother, and cousin who would all share a small home for the next six months provided by Catholic Charities.

I was slightly nervous my first time walking into a tiny room at AB Tech to meet my new student. Elaha sat before me, quiet, demure, with barely audible replies to anything I said. However, she already spoke and understood quite a bit of English, and when I asked her how she learned English, she said, “Watching movies on the internet.” “They have American movies in Afghanistan?” I asked incredulously. “No,” she patiently explained, “English subtitles to movies.” I was already impressed.  

Of course, she also knew Hindi, Dari, and Urdu. Fortunately for me, Erin had given me the most brilliant student! She told me that she wanted to be a neurosurgeon and was soon asking which was the best medical school. It seemed absurd that I was the tutor!

My first tutoring session with Elaha was on Dec. 18, 2021. In the coming days, I would meet her entire family. I never guessed how enriched my life would be by knowing them. I have learned, grown, and loved more than I could have imagined or foreseen. Wanting to give and contribute was the motivation for volunteering, yet it seems the gifts have all been mine.

I learned I could make a difference, and how invigorating it is to be inspired by this partnership with my student.

I learned about a new culture that ended up revealing much about my own culture.

I learned to be proud of my city, watching the caring, compassionate, and giving citizens respond to these new residents. I now know the answer to “Why Asheville?”

I learned how self-centered the independent ethos of America seemed compared to the community family ethos of Afghanistan people. I learned that once you are ‘adopted’ into an Afghan family, you are accepted, just as you are, and then taken care of.

I learned the difference between education as a privilege (to Elaha) and education as a thing to do (me). What a world of difference and quite different results! I learned how privileged my point of view is and the many things I take for granted.

I want to thank literacy together for all the good things they have done. They gave me the most valuable gift, my friend Martha. She is a gift of God and Literacy Together in my life, and I am very thankful to Erin, that matched Martha and me together. In this new journey of my life, Martha is like an angel who helps me and teaches me everything, not just English. I am very thankful. ~Elaha

This story was published in the Mountain Xpress!

The English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) program teaches oral English, reading, and writing to adults who have immigrated to the U.S. from around the world. ESOL is the largest program at Literacy Together, serving approximately 250 students annually. Our students’ most common goals in learning English are to improve their employment prospects, help their children in school, and pass the U.S. Naturalization exam

Each student works with a trained volunteer tutor, either individually or in a small group of ten people. Tutoring takes place for two hours each week at times and locations that are mutually convenient for students and tutors. Tutors may choose to teach one (1) two-hour session or two (2) one-hour sessions each week and may do so online or in person. Sign up online to volunteer.

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Congratulations, Iris, on reading your first book!

By Rebecca Massey, Adult Literacy Program Director
Iris called me this week to tell me she read her first book! She was so excited. I asked if she could write a few sentences about how that made her feel and why it was so important to her. She wrote a letter and brought it straight to me that day. And she picked up two more books to take home because she loves the feeling of reading now. Iris is an amazing and inspiring person, and we are all grateful to work with her. Here is what she wrote about this milestone in her life:

“Well everyone, I did something I never thought I could. That was to read a book. I did it all on my own. I accomplished it myself

I feel so good about it. It was 101 pages, WOW!! The name of the book is Never Going Back. That is so true for me.”

She thanked her two tutors, Jan and Ray, and the Adult Literacy director, Rebecca, for helping her reach this important goal:
“Thank you, I could not have done it without them.”
“Iris is an absolute delight! She has such a positive approach to learning and life! I hope to be able to work with her for a long time! ” 
Jan, Iris’s math tutor
“Through hard work and perseverance, Iris has accomplished something she thought was impossible:  read an entire book.  This is only her first goal in building her reading skills.  Congratulations, Iris!”
– Ray, Iris’s reading tutor

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