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Student Success Spotlight

nelson computer


“I couldn’t read, and it was haunting me.”

Nelson didn't attend school. After his mother died when he was just three years old, life was tough. His father married again but the new stepmother didn't believe in education. She kept the kids out of school, and none of Nelson's brothers or sisters got an education either. In Nigeria, where Nelson grew up, it was easier to keep a kid out of school than it would be here in the U.S., and no one intervened on his behalf.

At 15, Nelson moved out of his unhappy family home and got a job in the oil services industry. At 22 came some happiness - he met the woman who would soon be his wife. Her family life had been much more stable; she had completed school and even gone to college.  She encouraged Nelson to pursue his dreams.

In 2011, Nelson and his wife moved to Houston. Right away, she looked for classes for him on the internet and he signed up within weeks of his arrival. Their home is quite a distance from Literacy Advance, but Nelson was undaunted.

“The first time I told Mitch [Nelson's volunteer tutor], he said, ‘How can you make it to class?!’ I said, ‘Because I need this education.  That place will not be far from me, because I need it.

Since starting at Literacy Advance in 2011, Nelson has completed more than 500 hours of class! In addition to his reading class, he attends the Reading Practice Group for extra help, and has been part of our Transition services from the earliest days.

Nelson is currently working in maintenance at Rooms to Go.  Last year, his workplace asked him to start writing reports about his work.  He wasn’t able to do this on his own, so he used to call his wife for help and she would text the information to him.  But now, he writes each report himself, without assistance.  

During his most recent workplace review, Nelson pointed out his new skills, his work ethic, and the value he brings to the company, and negotiated a higher raise for himself than was originally offered. He credits his tutor, Mitch, with helping him gain the confidence to do such a thing:

“He would tell me, Nelson, if you want something, no matter who the person is, look him eyeball to eyeball and tell him. Don’t be shy. Mitch always told me, anything you want to do, have courage.  I was always scared to talk.  If you know the thing is good, go for it!  When I applied that, it worked for me.”

Thanks in part to the promotions and raises he has earned in recent years, Nelson and his wife were able to buy a new car. And last summer they also bought a house!

As well as his burgeoning reading skills, Nelson has taken on the challenge of computer literacy. He's attended Literacy Advance computer classes, and borrowed a laptop from the student Laptop Loan program so that he can continue practicing at home.

“Before, I couldn’t open the computer.  If you put a laptop here, I don’t know how to turn it on.  I had to call my wife.  But now, I know where to go.”  

Nelson recently told us that, since childhood, he would go to church all the time. He always carried a Bible with him, but he never opened it because he didn’t know how to read the words. Now, when he’s on break at work, he spends time reading his Bible. He knew all of the stories because he had heard them before, but had never read them on his own.

“Now I read it myself and I understand what they are saying! When I read it, I say, wow! It’s me that is reading this? I can’t believe it.”

He compares it to when someone travels and they tell you about the place they visited – they tell you it’s very beautiful, but you haven’t seen it yourself, so you don’t really know. “But when you go there, and you see it yourself, you can have the story. It’s like this. When they talk about a story in the Bible, it’s ok, but when I read it, I know. It comes alive.”

Nelson has big plans. He's continuing to work on reading and grammar with his tutors, and is preparing for the citizenship tests, which he hopes to take later this year. And while he and his wife haven't yet started a family, he's thinking about the future, and how he can influence future children.

“My hope for the future… I want to know how to read and write so I can teach my children.  When you give support to your children, you get the best from them.”  

“In Nigeria, you can’t get this kind of thing.  But in America, they want you to know your rights, and that’s very good.  I see so many people [at Literacy Advance] and I say, ‘Wow, these people don’t know how to read, I’m not the only one.’  America gives people the opportunity to learn.  Your heart is there, I got to give it to you guys. You’re helping us.”

I really appreciate coming to this place. I would not have survived. I’m proud of myself and my wife is proud of me.  If you don’t know how to do something before, but now you know how to do it, you will be proud.  I’m very happy.”


Nelson's thanks are for YOU. You gave him the opportunity to learn. You're helping him, and you're a big part of the reason he's proud and happy. Thank you.

Many more students just like Nelson are waiting for their chance. Students who have it in them to work hard, to learn, to transform their own life and to help make Houston more prosperous for all of us. Your donation will help another student, just like Nelson, to have a chance. Will you give the gift of opportunity today?

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