The Courage to Start

The Courage to Start

i Jun 26th No Comments by

For adult literacy students, grasping the
rudiments of reading and writing is as important as gaining the confidence to put
them into practice. This is why we encourage and celebrate students’
willingness to display their new-found skill whenever possible.  

As an international organisation that gives
women a voice and promotes literacy as a tool that fosters empowerment and
equity, We Learn provides just such an opportunity. For the past two years, Alta has submitted
student writing to We Learn for consideration to be published in their Women’s
Perspective Magazine.  In our first year of participating all 11 of Alta’s student
submissions were published.

Alta’s commitment to excellence in literacy
instruction is matched only by the dedication of our students who see improving
their reading and writing as a priority and put in the time and effort to
achieve this goal. Last week we looked at Alycia’s
journey to literacy. This week’s piece is written by Alta Level 3 student C.J.M.
Both women’s words express just how transformative the partnership between
tutors and students can be. 

I Am in My Journey

This girl, who was born in Diego Martin, grew
up in the country and never sat Common Entrance. She was labelled a loser
because she could not read and came from a very poor family, with nine siblings
and no way out in sight. Today she can say she scored. That lucky girl is me.

I was encouraged by Ms. Thomas to go back to
school and get an education so I could help myself. Also, my son said to me one
day, “Mummy I think you should go to Alta”. It is a decision I never regretted.
I stated in level two. At first I was scared, but when Mr. Tim said to us that
we are not beginners, I laughed to myself, “Girl you could read and spell a
little bit”.

I went to class every day because I wanted to
improve myself. My goal was to get to level three so I listened, I read, I
spelled and I practised and worked hard. Mr. Tim told us about taking part in Alta’s
Reading Under the Trees so we all had to write our life stories.

I took part but was not able to read my story
because of time constraints. I was so disappointed that I did not get to read
my story. However, I read a piece from my journal and I felt so nervous but
humble and proud of my first milestone.

I was promoted to Level 3. I was on track to
doing one thing that was holding me back. I set another goal to be a world
class reader. Then one day in class Mr. Tim announced that my story was
published in a magazine called the Women’s Perspective and will be published in
the Guardian newspapers.

I felt so accomplished and so empowered. I had
little butterflies in my stomach, I was proud of the other two ladies whose
writings were also published. Mr. Tim was proud because in his class he had
five of us getting published.

The little girl from the country is now an
author and proud of her success.

I am inspired to keep on writing. I am
confident and working on my second story and hopefully many more. I thank Alta
for giving me the courage to start, the discipline to stay, the encouragement
to continue and the appreciation that Mr. Tim and Mr. Raphael have shown to me
on my journey.

My journey though, has just begun. I am
hopeful that one day I will go on to do my college degree in English. Now I
feel like nothing can stop me. I can be one who wants to write books, or even
be one of the editors of a magazine or newspaper.

Alta has put life back into that little girl
who was once called a loser. Now I can say to them, “Success is mine and you
can’t take that from me”.



i Jun 8th No Comments by

ALTA is greatly honoured to receive the NGC Above and Beyond award, and to follow in the footsteps of previous awardees, Olympian Hasely Crawford and Pat Bishop, musician and visual artist. Not unlike these exemplars, ALTA’s students, though challenged by literacy, often have an aptitude for sports and the arts.

Selecting ALTA for this award shows that NGC is thinking above and beyond the norm, switching from honouring an individual of world renown to a whole group of persons who are largely unnoticed – since those with low literacy are on the margins of society, of employment, of life. This award brings them centre stage in the best possible way.

As this year’s recipient, ALTA undertakes three major projects under the theme “Stand Tall,” which captures the energy and resilience of our adult learners as they confront the obstacles between them and their education goals.

Stand Tall – I am ALTA aims to redefine literacy as a skill just like any other, thereby reducing, if not eliminating, the stigma surrounding low literacy. Stand Tall also offers two new initiatives to improve reading and spelling.

First, the ALTA Online pilot: ALTA Online is a web-based version of the ALTA literacy programme. After five long years, faithfully supported by Republic Bank Power to Make a Difference, ALTA Online is ready for users, and NGC is enabling us to pilot ALTA Online with 220 users in two phases. The UWI Campus Office of Planning and Institutional Research is partnering with ALTA to develop evaluation tools and collate and analyse findings. This systematic testing is critical to the success of ALTA Online. The ALTA Online pilot takes us one step closer to independent literacy learning.

The second Stand Tall project aids spelling instruction in schools by donating ALTA Spelling Dictionaries to low-performing primary and secondary schools; and by producing the ALTA Phonics Chart. The ALTA phonics chart will act as a quick reference visual aid in classrooms and homes. This is a phonics chart with a difference as it addresses the spelling needs of speakers of Caribbean English.

The third project, Stand Tall – I am ALTA, shows us the people – not just the issue; their sometimes overwhelming challenges; their courage; their step by step transformation so they do more than just keep standing – they stand tall. In the words of ALTA student Alycia Bernard, “I will succeed because I have all the support I need. In order for things to change, we must change.”

The Stand Tall – Above and Beyond award is a wondrous gift to see ALTA through these uncertain times. Thank you NGC for this award to our students, our volunteer tutors, our nation. Together, we stand tall!

If you or someone you know is interested in becoming a tutor, joining a class, or becoming a sponsor, call 624-2582 or email

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