‘Tis the season for inspirational stories of hope. That’s why we’re sharing one of our favorites, that of READ Center student William Mitchell.

Re-posted from an article by Bill Lohmann of  The Richmond Times-Dispatch:

Mitchell arrived at the center reading at about the first-grade level. His childhood proved to be pretty much a loss academically. As a kid, Mitchell was big for his age, and he stuttered, making him an easy target to be picked on. He did more fighting than learning, and combined with upheaval in his home life, Mitchell stopped going to school after the third grade.

He started working with his grandfather, who ran a demolition company, and he was big and strong enough to handle a man’s job before he was a teen. Working has never been a problem for Mitchell, but he always took low-level jobs so as to hide the fact he couldn’t read.

Job applications? He would ask a family member to fill those out. When it came to not being able to read on the job, he would watch and learn and then apply what he’d seen.

Repair a broken machine? Forget instructions. He’d watch someone else do it, and then he would always be able to do it after that.

He became a master of deception. If the question of reading ever came up, he would say he forgot his glasses, make a joke or change the subject. He survived and made a living, but as he grew older, the trickery became more difficult. Over the years, he has been cheated out of money and been flat-out embarrassed that he couldn’t read. So, he decided he should learn.

His first attempts proved to be false starts, in part because of his poor attendance at adult classes. It was suggested he should try The READ Center. He did, and here we are. He reads papers, magazines, billboards, the Bible.

“I don’t have to pretend anymore,” he said. “I can break down words, and if I can’t break down a word or if I don’t know the word, I’ll ask you. I’m not afraid who’s going to laugh because I don’t care who’s going to laugh.”

But he will make you laugh.

William continues to study at The READ Center. With the help of his teacher and tutors, he continues to improve his skills. He is one of more than 200 students READ served last year. The generosity of our donors and commitment of our volunteers helped make that happen. With your continued support, our students will write new stories for themselves. Thank you and happy holidays!

Amazon Smile benefits The READ Center

Support from organizations like Amazon Smile is helping The READ Center continue its mission to give the gift of literacy to adults in metro Richmond. When you use Amazon Smile for your holiday gift-giving, READ receives donations. Thank you for your support!