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FEATURE STORY I guess it didn’t dawn on me that my grandfather was illiterate until this year when we were going over some loan papers for school together. My grandfather’s name is Victor Davis and he was born in St. Catherine’s Parish in Jamaica. All of my life I knew him to be a hardworking man in the construction fields. Then, again all of my lives, Ive come to realize, I had never seen him read a bill statement or a letter either. My grandmother usually does this for him, which when I was younger I thought was very odd but never mentioned. I just thought that’s the way it was and he didn’t feel like going through the mail. It’s not that h didn’t feel like he just wasn’t able to. Coming from Jamaica to America as an illiterate immigrant, my grandfather managed to do pretty well for himself. He went from a shack in St. Catherine’s to a five bedroom house in one of the most prominent areas of my city. I look at all his accomplishments now and question whether he ever wanted to go back to school and learn to read. Growing up in Jamaica is definitely different than life here in the States. In order to attend school you must be able to afford the uniform and the textbooks just for elementary school. The textbooks and uniforms do not come cheap and a lot of people in Jamaica do not have the money to send their children to school so they end up working at a very young age. My grandfather was one of those children. My grandfather is a man of pride. He doesn’t like people to know that there are limitations to what he can and can’t do because in his heart he feels as though he can do it all. This is where Operation Bootstrap comes into play. Had there been a program like this around when my grandfather came to the States then maybe he would be reading now. This is why I put so much emphasis on Operation Bootstrap and truly believe in the program because it does save lives. It gives adults a second chance and opportunity to make something of themselves and enhances the lives they are living. If there’s one thing that people can never take away from you it’s your education and your knowledge. An education a beautiful thing to have and it lasts a lifetime. Operation Bootstrap was founded in 1976 in Lynn, Massachusetts. The program is now in its 35th year and still going strong. Bootstrap has served over 25,000 families from the Lynn area alone. Operation Bootstrap provided adult learners with the opportunity to learn English and gain a high school equivalency (GED). The program also helps to prepare immigrants to become citizens of the U.S. Operation Bootstrap’s environment is nothing but supportive. They want everyone to be able to succeed in this world on their own. They empower individuals to lead lives that are productive. The program is truly a blessing in disguise. I am pretty sure that had this been around for my grandfather, he would have jumped at the opportunity. Society is often judged by how it treats those who may have been left behind. In this case, we must emphasize and address the need for universal education among our entire population. No matter how much money your making literacy comes first. Operation Bootstrap does a great job of not letting people forget that.


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