WHERE LITERACY IS A FAMILY AFFAIR By Jessie Bazan, Comm ’14
MARKESHA HARRIS WAS THE FIRST OF FOUR CHILDREN IN HER FAMILY TO WORK ON LITERACY SKILLS AT THE COLLEGE OF EDUCATION’S HARTMAN FAMILY LITERACY CENTER. NOW SHE’S A MARQUETTE FRESHMAN STUDYING ENGINEERING. Hopping off the big yellow school bus, Markesha Harris clutched her mother’s hand. The duo began making their way down the 16th Street sidewalk, off to another afternoon at Marquette’s Hartman Family Literacy Center, where Markesha was newly enrolled in the reading program and her mom, Ydisa Patterson, had just started volunteering. “There’s the nursing building,” Ydisa pointed out to her awestruck daughter, then a third-grader at Urban Day School. “Over there, that’s the engineering building.” Gazing around at the towering groups of college students, young Markesha inquired, “Mama, do they stay in one building all day?” “No!” Ydisa said with a laugh. “You change from classroom to classroom. When you get to college, you’ll change from building to building.” Ten years later, Ydisa beams with pride as she describes how Markesha now lives these words as a first-year engineering student at Marquette. It wasn’t always a matter of when Markesha would go to college, but if. Before she came to the Hartman Center as a third-grader, Markesha was having a difficult time in school. Not only was she learning to overcome a speech impediment, but she was reluctant to raise her hand in class, said teachers, out of fear that she’d be teased over her struggles with reading. That’s when Ydisa looked into Hartman. Established in 1992, the Hartman Family Literacy Center is a teaching, research and service site operated by the College of Education. Twice a week, second- through fifth-graders from select Milwaukee public and charter schools are bussed to the center’s offices in the Walter Schroeder Complex. They spend an hour and a half in groups of two or three being tutored by undergraduate teachers under the supervision of Marquette education professors.