The Mard Little Award for Adult Learner Excellence is presented to KLC learners who have persevered through obstacles along their literacy journey to reach their academic and personal goals.
Rodney is a KLC learner who recently came back into service. Originally from St. Louis, he’s been in the Kalamazoo area for 20 years. Growing up in a family of 10, Rodney’s early path in life was rocky. He spent many years in the streets and ended up incarcerated. While there, he was able to reflect on himself and his choices. After several tragedies, including the loss of his mother and son, he vowed to do better and spend time with more positive people who could help him make better choices.
“All across the state, all across the country, we do find that there are adults who struggle to read and the term functional literacy really means reading at 0 to fourth grade level,” Michael Evans, the executive director of the Kalamazoo Literacy Council, said. “Most documents for adults struggling to read at that level, they may not be able to read it independently. So that might mean the mail you receive, the applications you need to fill out if you try to apply for a job — not being able to search those jobs and be able to see how you fit.”
A love for family, a quest for a better life and a stroke of luck brought Elvis Vetene to West Michigan. Vetene won the visa lottery, also called the Diversity Visa Program. He left the Democratic Republic of the Congo for Kalamazoo to give his family a better life. Vetene spoke several African languages and French. But because of COVID-19 his English level was not improving.