Amanda Hedenberg, Graduate
As a teenager, Amanda Hedenberg found her grades declining as she cared less and less about school. She thought at the time that school wasn’t important, especially since she had a job that put some money in her pocket. “When you’re fifteen, 200 dollars is a lot of money,” Amanda explains. But as she grew up, she learned how much it costs to be an adult and realized the link between education and income. “I have three boys at home,” Amanda says, “and I lost my job and couldn’t get another job.” It was through happenstance that Amanda found Seeds of Literacy: community service for a traffic ticket led her to the program, but it was her dedication to further her education that made her enroll once her service was completed.
Though Amanda was determined to earn her GED, there were obstacles. “I’m a single mom. Getting here [to class] was a priority, but it wasn’t my top priority,” she admits. But retention calls from Seeds kept her goal in mind and let her know that the program was always there to return to. “That little voice in the back of my head said, ‘You’ve got to do this. Let’s go,’” Amanda shares. “I’d do what I had to do to get here. I knew what I wanted and I had my goals set, and I was going to accomplish my goals no matter what.”
Seeds’ one-on-one tutoring and personal attention helped Amanda’s positive attitude to flourish. “They treat you like you matter,” she says of the tutors and staff. “That makes me feel good, that they actually care. It’s like a little family.” The encouragement of the tutors and her own hard work paid off when, after being enrolled with Seeds for less than nine months, Amanda passed the GED exam in September of 2011. She remembers when Site Coordinator Chris Richards told her the scores. “I was at work when he called me. I was jumping up and down and screaming and crying. I was so excited.” It’s easy to understand why Amanda would feel that way. Now that she has her GED, Amanda’s life has blossomed with opportunities. She’ll begin her first term at Tri-C this January, where she’ll study for medical assisting to one day work in the maternity ward of a hospital. Seeds of Literacy helped her so much that Amanda now recommends the program to her friends, letting them know that at Seeds, “everybody cares about everybody.”
Eric Owens, Graduate
A difficult childhood meant that Eric Owens had to leave his education behind and take on adult responsibilities at an early age in order to help care for his family. Growing up with a mother who was not only a single parent but also stuggling with drug addiction, Eric and his siblings were forced to find ways to pay the family’s bills and to care for their mother. To help keep his family together, Eric dropped out of high school when he was just 14 years old and began working full-time. Without a high school diploma, though, he had difficulty finding employment and often ended up with temporary, poorly paying jobs. 16 years old when his family moved to Texas, Eric remained in Cleveland where he was left with no support system, no education, and struggling to find work. There were times when he even found himself without a place to live.
However, Eric refused to let his past and current circumstances prevent him from bettering his future. He began to pursue his entrepreneurial dreams, but quickly realized that his lack of a high school diploma was a barrier to achieving his goals. Without a high school education, Eric struggled with the mathematical and literacy skills—such as understanding interest rates, contracts, bills, and budgets—necessary for establishing a profitable business. He knew that expanding his math skills and earning a GED were crucial to becoming successful.
Eric enrolled as a student with Seeds of Literacy in May of 2010 at the age of 28. The orgainzation’s trained and dedicated tutors, all of whom are volunteers, worked one-on-one with Eric, focusing on math, reading, writing, social studies, and science. The specialized curriculum developed for Seeds of Literacy students allowed Eric to quickly begin improving his skills, and after only 7 months with the program, Eric took the GED exam and passed. Now prepared with a GED, Eric was eligible to enroll at Great Lakes Truck Driving School and received a grant from the state of Ohio to attend the school’s heavy equipment training program.
Eric became licensed to operate heavy equipment and is now living his dream. In early 2011, he started his own company, Rulan Brothers Construction, LLC, which provides concrete, roofing, flooring, and other home repair and improvement services. Thanks to the knowledge and skills he gained at Seeds of Literacy, he is now able to effectively manage the finances of his company, analyzing contracts, interest rates, and loan information. The company is doing well, allowing Eric to support himself and his wife. “Seeds of Literacy helped me get an education, further my skills, and improve my life,“ he says.
Julian Reynolds, Student
“Growing up isn’t easy,“ recalls Seeds of Literacy student Julian Reynolds. Julian had never known his father, and when when he was six years old his mother tragically passed away. This devastating experience was compounded by the many moves Julian made between the homes of family members, where he often suffered from physical abuse and neglect. To escape his anger, frustration, and pain, Julian began drinking and experimenting with drugs. He dropped out of school at age 17, and eventually his rebellious behaviour resulted in jail time. It was then, after his release in 1995, that Julian decided it was time to change his life.
Julian became a father and was determined to provide for his family. Because he did not have a high school diploma, Julian had to work three jobs to earn a livable wage. He always managed to find employment, but he knew that his earnings and quality of work would improve with a GED. While searching for GED tutoring assistance, Julian came across a newspaper ad for Seeds of Literacy and enrolled with the program in 2007. Having initially tested at a fourth grade reading level, classes have been challenging for Julian. He has remained focused, though, and attends classes when not working. Julian is an active student and takes advantage of all that Seeds of Literacy has to offer, including a book club, poetry reading, and blood drive. He has also given community presentations on behalf of Seeds, sharing the many ways in which the program has changed his life.
After much hard work and dedication, Julian is now prepared to earn his GED and is planning on taking the exam in the summer of 2011, after which he plans to enroll in college. He is thankful to have had the support of Seeds of Literacy throughout his educational progress. “The people at Seeds of Literacy are not just staff and tutors,“ he says. “They are my mentors.“