Photo by João Silas on Unsplash

Sifted Through, Passed-Over, But Refused to be Left Behind

Media In Print (aka Arnita)
3 min readApr 30, 2020


As an adjunct writing coach in 2017, during the beginning of the fall term at a university in my hometown, I encountered a student who taught me lessons in humility, determination, patience and perseverance, despite a life-long struggle to overcome:

Already faced with challenges, a young child I’ll call Tony struggled in school. His dad was absent from the home. Mom didn’t know how to help and continued to send him to class. Tony’s struggle was a result of illiteracy. The teachers were aware of Tony’s problem, but continued to pass him through the system from one grade to the next.

This charade continued until Tony graduated from high school. Then, he was thrust into society. He sought help from those who were willing to assist. He was able get a job, from which he retired after twenty-seven years. He was set-up with a literacy coach. The coach helped Tony attain a third-grade reading level. Six months passed. Tony was at tenth-grade reading level.

At that time, Tony had gained much-needed confidence. He decided to take a leap and registered for college. Tony had a support system intact, his literacy coach, a campus tutor who met with him weekly, as well as friends and family.

While in college, Tony used a voice recorder to capture the lecture. Although Tony could read, he did not have confidence to trade-off the recorder to hand-write lecture notes. Tony hit another roadblock along with compounding challenges.

It was a very unfortunate situation. Tony’s mom didn’t know where to turn, nor did she have the knowledge or resources to help her child. Those who could help, didn’t. Tony was in his early fifties, still struggling through life in fear, with low self-esteem and anxiety, hoping no one would discover the secret he had camouflaged his entire life.

At the time I documented this experience, Tony’s charade continued. He still struggled, gravitating toward anyone who would offer help. His literacy rate was on a steady incline. But his confidence, which he was slowly regaining, very early in life had been shattered.

What happened to the village? The parents had a role, but couldn’t deliver. The teachers had a role, but didn’t step-up. Society had a role and did its best to accommodate Tony.

This is a true account. Tony (not his real name) at the time, was fifty-one years if age. This situation began in the late 1960s. Tony was African American. He attended public schools. He was also on the low-rung of the socio-economic scale. His mom was also illiterate and lacked education, which explains why Tony didn’t have a starting chance.

As we progressed through the college courses, the words and assignments became more challenging. Not yet at college-level reading, Tony stopped coming to my tutoring/coaching sessions, as he became more humiliated each time we met.

Prior to his absence, during our last tutoring session, Tony had taken all the strength he could muster to hold back tears, as he shared his plight with me. I could also see his pride being wounded. For him, shedding tears in front of a female, he expressed how weak, ashamed and worthless he felt bearing his soul. I became very sad, but I had to stay strong. I still wanted to provide Tony the necessary help he deserved. However, I had a “feeling” that would be our last meeting.

Often, I think of Tony, wondering how he’s doing. Deep-down, I believe he’s okay. He was an amazing individual, student and human-being who had stamina and courage beyond measure.



Media In Print (aka Arnita)

Print Media Writer | Lifestyle, Arts & Culture, and Wellbeing | A true introvert; I must have my quiet time alone.