In the fall of 1995, California's State Collaborative Literacy Council through its State Literacy Resource Center decided to create an annual recognition for literacy programs and literacy learners in California. The idea was to recognize the exemplary adult and family literacy programs and the accomplishments of adult learners who had achieved outstanding success or overcome unusual barriers.
The Outstanding Adult Learner Awards were based on the following criteria:
Nominations for the Outstanding Adult Learner Awards were solicited statewide and over 150 were received. Nominations were made by program staff and a nonpartisan panel evaluated the nominations and selected the winners. The awards were then presented as part of the California Adult Learner Conference on March 9, 1996. This day was also proclaimed Adult Learner Day in California by Governor Pete Wilson (see Appendix C).
Two monetary awards of $100 each were given in three categories (ABE, ESL and Family Literacy) for First and Second Places. These monetary awards were to be used by the nomi-nating literacy program for selected literacy activities. Plaques were given to the learners for First, Second and Third Place in each of the three categories. In two categories, because of the large number of nominees, Honorable Mention plaques were also awarded but these stories are not included in this publication.
The decision on the learner awards was especially hard because each and every learner nominated for an award was very deserving. Although some of the learners were aware they had won prior to the conference, most were surprised at the ceremony when their names were called.
As each winner was announced and came forward to accept his/her award, it became very clear that the personal stories of difficulty and triumph which each had to tell were both moving and heartwarming. Every story was unique to the learner, yet many similarities existed between these stories and those told by others who had struggled to achieve literacy as adults.
It seemed only fitting to share these wonderful stories with all adult learners in California and throughout the nation. Although initially many of the winners were shy and even reticent about publicly telling their stories, all ultimately decided that they were willing to share their own personal words in hopes that they might help others to overcome their fears or embarrassment about needing literacy improvement. It is thus with great pride for these individuals and their accomplishments, and with humility at the lessons they have to teach those of us who think we are the teachers, that I introduce the stories of California's Outstanding Adult Learners of 1996. May you find them as uplifting and remarkable as those of us who had the honor to hear them spoken by the winners as they accepted their awards in March of this year.
Dr. Carole Talan, Director
State Literacy Resource Center of California