Craven Literacy Students Succeed!

Immigrant Runs Own Business and Earns Citizenship

New Citizen Gloria Aranda celebrates with her tutor

When Gloria Aranda came to Craven Literacy Council in 2007 with a high school certificate from her native Colombia, her oral English abilities were sufficient only to satisfy basic survival needs and very routine social demands. She appealed to CLC for help communicating effectively so that she could be involved at her daughter’s school, participate in her church, find employment, and ultimately become a US citizen. Three years later Gloria’s oral skills had increased so much that she could function independently and competently in social and work situations. She is now actively involved with her daughter’s schooling and is comfortable interacting with her daughter’s counselor. Gloria understands the English sermons at her church and sings the hymns in English.

Not only did Gloria get a job - she started her own small business. Her enhanced English listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills permit her to communicate with her customers by telephone and face-to-face. Gloria also worked with her tutor to learn computer and technology skills that many take for granted. She now communicates with her customers via e-mail and creates professional invoices using her new skills. Gloria celebrates other achievements such as knowing how to write checks and deposit slips as well as using the internet to check her bank account online.

Gloria continues to work with a literacy tutor at Craven Literacy Council. In 2015 she met a long-held goal of passing the naturalization test and becoming a United States citizen. She and her tutor worked diligently with the civics material provided to her free of charge. She completed her application and went through the multi-step process to becoming a US citizen. In a recent communication with CLC Gloria wrote, “My experience has been wonderful because now I can communicate better in whatever place I go. ” Craven Literacy Council celebrates Gloria's hard work. We are thankful to be part of her success story.

Celebrating Citizenship

staff and student celebrate citizenship

Student Services Coordinator Cathy Weiss and Volunteer Services Coordinator Donna Marshall celebrate with Sein Mya (center), one of five Craven Literacy students who passed the examination to become US citizens in June 2012. Way to go students!

Our Ambassador for Literacy


Edward “Earl” Mills and his wife Marie have raised five children, and Earl has enjoyed 30 years of successful employment with Hatteras Yachts.  Despite his many accomplishments, Earl lived most of his life hiding a secret – he could barely read.  He finally turned to the Craven Literacy Council for help.
When Earl tells his story, he vividly conveys the fear that came with hiding this secret throughout his adult life.  He also shares the sheer determination it took for him to become a reader.  In addition to improving his literacy skills, Earl has developed an unmatched ability to capture the frustrations and triumphs of a new reader through his poetry. Earl was a student at CLC for several years.  He is now a mentor and book club leader and has served as a member of the Craven Literacy Council’s Board of Directors.

Twenty Six Letters

(A Poem by Earl Mills, a former CLC student)

Befuddled by the alphabet, fifty years old and can’t read yet.
Twenty –six letters have brought me such shame;
   someone asked me to spell my name.
Another bulletin at work today, who can I ask – what does it say?
Grandpa, will you read this book to me?
   I tell her the letters are too small to see.
I don’t have my glasses; I’m running late; I am victim to this lie I hate.
Cannot read – won’t tell a soul;
   secret of my youth- now I am old.
Letter after letter I can’t figure out; frustration inside, a silent shout.
Twenty-six letters can raise so much hell;
   their riddles to me they will not tell.
This secret stay locked within, but I will not let these letters win.

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Single Mom Improves Literacy for Better Job

Tutor Mary Helen Boone celebrates with her student

Being a young single mother brings significant challenges. Knowing that the best way to improve her family’s situation was to get a good paying job, Denise Ellis reached out to Craven Literacy Council for a tutor to help improve her reading and writing skills. In December, 2008, Denise met her tutor, Mary Helen Boone, and they have been working together ever since!

That commitment is an outstanding accomplishment; few tutor/student pairs invest that many years together. The result is a wonderful bond between these two women. Mary Helen has served as cheerleader, friend, inspiration, and shoulder-to-lean-on and she feels such pride to see the growth that Denise has made. Denise considers Mary Helen to be an important member of her “family” and is very appreciative of the encouragement and support that Mary Helen provided. They both consider themselves honored to share their story.

Denise faced many challenges during those years. Family issues, unemployment, an auto accident that left her with recurring bouts of pain, and finally, loss of her home to Hurricane Irene. She had to move her children from one temporary location to another over the past few years. (Fortunately, with the help of Mary Helen and her husband, Denise was finally able to find a permanent home for her family this year.)

With all these challenges, it would have been so easy to stop studying. But not Denise. Discovering through her daughters that she had a passion for working with young children, she enrolled at Pamlico Community College to work toward a certificate in Early Childhood Education. As a work-study student at PCC, she is able to work with the Smart Start Program, a pre-school educational program, which made her even more certain that she wants to help educate children. She continues to study at PCC and has made significant progress toward reaching her goal. She has already completed two years of study at PCC and earned all B’s last semester! Now she and Mary Helen are working on the financial aid package to enable her to continue her studies.

We’ve all heard the saying, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” That certainly describes the Denise/Mary Helen team, and we couldn’t be prouder to share their story.

Meet Our New US Citizen

earning citizenship