In literacy program, dreams come true

June 22, 1993|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,Staff Writer

When Rosie Anderson dropped out of high school in the 10th grade, her mother did not approve.

Last night, Mrs. Anderson, 52, made her mother happy when she received her high school diploma.

"My mother didn't want me to drop out of school, but I did. So I thank the Lord she's here to see me," said Mrs. Anderson, one of 11 graduates who received high school equivalency diplomas last night at the Kossiakoff Center at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Columbia.

Mrs. Anderson studied through Project Literacy, a county program based in the Howard County Central Library in Columbia.

Relying mainly on volunteers, the program tutors people learning to read or learning English as a second language, and those studying for high school equivalency diplomas.

Project Literacy, which is coordinated by Janet Carsetti, who founded the program in 1987, has 150 students, ranging in age from 19 to 72, and 138 volunteers.

Ms. Carsetti estimated that if the volunteer tutors, who have contributed 16,000 hours since last year's graduation, were paid, it would cost the county $600,000 a year instead of the $35,000 it costs for her salary and that of a part-time assistant.

More than 600 tutors have been trained in the county.

Since 1991, the program has held a graduation ceremony for clients who receive high school diplomas.

This year, 19 people earned diplomas, 11 of whom attended last night's ceremony.

"For almost 99 percent of the graduates, it's been up and down, up and down, and this is the end of a very long road," Ms. Carsetti said.

Mrs. Anderson worked with her tutor once a week while holding two jobs, as laundry manager at the Columbia Hilton and as custodian for the Howard County schools.

When she walked to the podium last night, her cheering section numbered at least 20, including her parents, Catherine Belle, 77, and Albert Belle, 80, and her four children and eight grandchildren.

Graduates Rhonda Bailey, 24, and her sister, Roberta Rhea, 26, were tutored in Project Literacy's mobile classroom, which visits sites around the county for those who can't come to the library for tutoring.

Ms. Bailey and Ms. Rhea, both of whom dropped out of high school, met the van at St. James United Methodist Church in West Friendship, where their children are in a Head Start program.

"I just felt like something was missing in my life, and it's a good influence for my daughter," Ms. Bailey said.

Anita Hawkins, 46, spoke for many of the graduates when she told how she had dreamed for 30 years of getting her diploma.

She said she had to quit school when she was 16 to take care of her younger sisters. Instead of going back to school later, she got married and reared a family.

"Everyone has a dream tucked away from a long time ago," Mrs. Hawkins said. "This program let me pull it out and make it come true."

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