DES MOINES, Iowa — For most of his life, Jose Hernandez-Diaz had a secret.
"I had this secret and this personal struggle and shame that I held within myself, and it was reading," he said.
Hernandez-Diaz isn't alone in that struggle. According to Anne Murr, Literacy Specialist at DMACC, more than one in six Polk County adults read at or below a third grade level.
"These are adults who are employed, who are parents, who can't read to their children, or struggle with reading of things that they have to do for work," Murr said.
At the Adult Literacy Center at DMACC, more than 200 people have received tutoring in the last year. Hernandez-Diaz is one of them. The lessons are totally run by volunteers, who are partnered with aspiring readers. But there's a problem: with more and more people receiving lessons, the center needs more volunteers to keep up.
Doris Payne is a coach at the Adult Literacy Center. She said she's glad to be a part of this program.
"They're so hardworking, and they're so determined. And on top of that, they're just so grateful to be given this opportunity. And so when I see that, it just wants me to even spend more time doing this," said Payne.
The results of the program speak for themselves. Hernandez-Diaz said his reading skills have improved by two grade levels in the last year and he's hoping to reach a 12th grade level soon. He's proud to share what he's overcome, and hopes others can do the same.
"As long as you are taking steps in that direction to improve your literacy, you'll be more confident in sharing about your struggle until you succeed," Hernandez-Diaz said. "Don't wait until fear leaves for you to actually step up and do something. Face your fears; and then facing your fears, you will overcome all the doubts that you have."
All of the Adult Literacy Center's services are free. You don't need to be a DMACC student in order to participate.
If you're interested in becoming a coach, you can call (515) 248-7517 or email Vickie Merrifield, the Coordinator of the Adult Literacy Center, at email@example.com.
You can also find more information, including how to donate to the project, on the center's website.