When Deidra Mayberry was a child, she had difficulty reading. Feeling embarrassed and ashamed, she did her best to hide it. And she was good enough to hide it. As her family moved around a lot, due to her parents’ military career, she adapted and continued to hide it – throughout school without anyone really noticing.
After graduating from high school, she began to seek support to improve her reading skills.
“I was turned down because I was over 17, and other private options like private lessons were financially out of reach for me.”
Deidra promised that one day she would do something about it. After struggling for years and finally finding support, she started a nonprofit organization to help other adults facing their own literacy challenges. Now she is working to help the nearly 43,000,000 adults who are still struggling. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES), 21 percent of adults in the United States (approximately 43 million) fall into the category of functional illiterate / illiterate.
For Deidra, university was the first time she experienced and understood what functional illiteracy was. Someone who is illiterate is unable to read or write at all, but someone who is functionally illiterate has reading skills – they are just not strong enough to handle the tasks of daily living and reading. ‘use.
She was able to graduate by taking extra summer semesters, spending long nights studying, changing major when it got too difficult, and getting help from her father.
“I was so proud that I graduated from college and graduated,” Deidra said. “But once I started applying for jobs, reality quickly set in. I never really solved my literacy problems. Instead, I found ways around them. in order to save myself the embarrassment and shame that I already felt daily. “
“I relied a lot on movies to teach myself and expose myself to things in life that would help me build relationships with others,” she says. “It made me live a life of fear, limitations and despair.”
“I felt unworthy because I knew I had this big secret – and I thought if people knew they would see that I was of no value.”
Deidra continued to live like this for years until she had a light bulb moment.
“I was working so hard to hide my struggle for literacy in order to make it work, but I asked myself, ‘What if I work this hard to fix it? “”
She found the courage to tell a friend about it, who started tutoring her. “The hope, courage and confidence that she helped me find was the beautiful empowering moment that reminded me to create and provide a resource for people like myself.”
This is exactly what she did. On March 12, 2020, she and another friend decided to start a non-profit association to help other functionally illiterate adults. And even though COVID-19 shut down businesses and put people on lockdown the next day, she didn’t let him stop it.
“I just believed that God was with me and the time was still right now because people were waiting for it,” she said.
She started Reading to New Heights, an organization that teaches adults the basics of reading with one-on-one, confidential and virtual tutoring sessions with certified educators.
“The curriculum our educators teach from allows our adult learners to revisit the fundamentals of reading and comprehension as if they were learning them for the first time,” says Deidra. “The basics of reading such as phonemic awareness, phonetics, fluency, spelling, vocabulary and comprehension are exactly what adults struggling with illiteracy need to develop competent literacy skills and fill the gaps that illiteracy causes in education. “
Most importantly, these services are provided free of charge, so that anyone who needs them can access them.
“Although illiteracy and functional illiteracy can affect anyone, people in low-income and underserved communities of color are more likely to be limited in terms of education, income and opportunities for education. ‘advancement in the workplace because of it. ”
“Illiteracy and functional illiteracy can be directly linked to a higher prison population, lower household incomes and inaccessibility to quality health care,” says Deidra. “By committing to developing the basics of reading, our adult learners overcome both the psychological and environmental limits of illiteracy.
Since its launch, the association has been featured on Fox 4 News, giving it the visibility it needs to grow from three participants in the adult program to 20 – and they hope to continue to grow. They have also been accepted into an incubator program with Centraide, which is designed to support them as they start their businesses.
Deidra is one of Tory Burch’s Empowered Women this year. The donation she receives as a nominee goes to her new and growing nonprofit organization.
“It’s kind of ironic, the very thing that I was ashamed of that I thought I had to hide for years was the one thing that, once I shared it, not only set me free, but me. gave hope and allowed me to help others, ”Deidra said. “I love that my story is about helping others find the courage to share and take the first step to start their literacy journey.”
To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy’s Empowered Women program, visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen. Do you know an inspiring woman like Deidra? Name her today!
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