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July 8, 2015, Detroit, MI (By Lenore Boivin, OP) -- Imagine this: I cannot read. I cannot write. I cannot understand or speak English. I do not know how to live in this new country. Imagine such a life! How does one say what this journey must be like?

On June 18, 2015 Siena Literacy Center, serving Northwest Detroit, celebrated individuals who know all too well this reality. Twenty-three learners were honored and inducted into the National Adult Education Honor Society (NAEHS) during a special June 18, 2015, ceremony. They each received a pin and a certificate from NAEHS. Another individual was given special recognition for the special work and achievement that culminated in his graduation from a culinary arts program.

On this day we rejoiced with all of them for their commitment, dedication, and efforts in “going the extra mile” as they strive and triumph over adversity. Tutors were recognized for their special talents and ability not only to impart knowledge, but also to believe in and encourage the learners to know their worth. Siena was honored by the presence of many Adrian Dominican Sisters who are dedicated to the mission of education in the area of literacy

S.J. celebrates his accomplishment with his daughter, Seline.

Sister Lenore Boivin, OP, left,
with one of the Adrian Dominican supports of Siena,
Sister Helen Sohn, OP.

Sister Pat Johnson, OP, gave the keynote speech, presenting to us two inspiring figures who have struggled against all odds and have become advocates for literacy. She spoke about Malala, the brave young woman from Pakistan who was shot because of her efforts for the rights of every individual to have an education. It was she who addressed the United Nations with, “Let us pick up our books and our pens! They are our most powerful weapons. One teacher, one child, one book, one pen can change the world.”

Sister Pat also related the story of a woman with whom she worked. This woman described her circumstances: “My life was a disaster. I was living in a world of broken pieces and broken dreams. There were so many things I did not know or understand because I could not read. That was the scariest part of all. I felt like a child inside a woman’s body.”

Sister Pat went on to tell of the confident, successful, compassionate woman she is today. What a difference literacy can make! What a powerful message Siena’s learners heard this day from Sister Pat, because they, too, often come from a world of broken pieces and broken dreams.

Amidst some tears but with many more smiles and laughter, our learners gave voice to the meaning of the day with joy and gratitude for their experience with their tutor, with the Siena Literacy Center, and with their family’s continued support.

• “Everything has changed, even my writing! And an old man shouldn’t cry” - T.H.           

• His daughter said, “He saw to it that we did our homework and that we had an education! Now it is his turn!” His wife said, “He has come a long way and we are so proud of him!”

• “It is hard enough to come in and ask for help. But when you come in, you can feel what they feel for you. If I had money, I couldn’t pay you for what you do. Thank you so much!” - C.G.

• “We meet obstacles every day, but we have to be strong and fight through them. And we can do it!”
- L.H.

• “I was always afraid to read out loud. [My tutor] taught me things I missed. It is so wonderful to learn what you thought you should have learned.” -  A.Y.

• “This is a quote from Epictetus: ‘Only he who is educated is truly free.’ I thank you for this new form of education and this new freedom!” - G.S. 

• "I really want to thank my tutor! He gave me the tools to learn….and for his creativity…. and he encouraged me. I appreciate him so much!” - S. M. 

• “My tutor kept giving me the look that said, You can do it! I thank her so much!” - D.J. 

• “You are special! You make me smile!” – H.S., looking at her tutor.

The celebration continued with laughter and conversation and light refreshment. As we live and learn together, we move forward with a deep sense gratitude and mission.


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