Coming to Marion County from Jamaica in 2007, Laurel Robinson did not have a high school diploma and found it difficult to get work here, particularly work that paid enough to support a wife and young son. He took many odd jobs but life was a constant struggle. One day his wife learned through a friend that there was a way to get a “GED”, a high school graduation equivalent degree. It was through the Marion County Literacy Council, where volunteer tutors work with people struggling to become more proficient in English.
Laurel spoke a version of English called “Patois English” common in his native Jamaica, so he needed help with “regular” English. He needed to get his GED in order to qualify for jobs requiring a high school diploma. The Literacy Council assigned him to a tutor who happened to be a local accountant. In the beginning Laurel was skeptical about “going back to school” after twelve years, but his tutor made him feel at ease. “In my days in school we were in big classes, and the classes were not interesting, or at least I wasn’t very motivated in the crowd sessions,” he said. Working with his tutor learning was “quicker, faster” since he would do one lesson, and then I’d do the next one. We were a team.” He began tutoring in November, but with the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, the twice a week sessions stretched into February. In March he took the GED exam and passed.
Now Laurel can help his now 10-year-old son with his homework. He uses the “one on one” technique with his son which was used at the Literacy Council. “You have fun learning, and you’re motivated to improve. I’m grateful that people give to the United Way so United Way can support the Literacy Council which changed my life,” he said.