LITERACY COUNCIL OF MONTGOMERY COUNTY
Adult Literacy Student to Receive National Award (Rockville, MD) – Gaithersburg resident Milton Whitley will receive the Ruth J. Colvin and Frank C. Laubach Award for Student Excellence from ProLiteracy, the largest volunteer-based adult literacy organization in the United States. Whitley will accept the award at the ProLiteracy/COABE conference in Chicago on March 18, 2010. He was nominated by the Literacy Council of Montgomery County (LCMC). In July 2007, at the age of fifty-two, Whitley began working with a basic literacy tutor at the LCMC. At that time, he was unable to recite and print the complete alphabet; was unfamiliar with many letter sounds; and was at a loss when attempting to read all but a few words. While his profound desire to become a full participant in life led him to seek assistance from the Literacy Council, he harbored a great deal of self-doubt about his ability to learn how to read and write. After years of failure and frustration, Whitley believed that he was “unteachable.” The shame he felt – and his fear that others would find out -- impacted every aspect of his life. “I was born and raised in this country, but I felt like a prisoner here,” said Whitley. He had faced unemployment, struggled with drugs and alcohol, and for a time, lived in a shelter. As Whitley progressed through the basic literacy program, he became more confident; more committed to learning; more excited about the possibilities that lay ahead; and more inspired to help others seeking to become literate. Learning how to read has changed his world. “When I go to the grocery store now, I know I have a choice of whole, skim, or fat-free milk! I can buy detergent with bleach or without bleach! I can read the road signs. It’s easier to understand things. I know how to look words up in the dictionary. I can balance a checkbook and write a check.” Whitley says he once felt fear when confronted with the written word. “Now when I see a word I know, I smile.” He is currently working, living independently, and helping others in his community. Whitley has presented testimony in support of adult literacy to a Legislative House Committee in Annapolis, MD. He delivers motivational speeches to recovering addicts, formerly homeless individuals, and at-risk youth. He has been a guest speaker at literacy events and recruits students for the literacy program. Whitley was instrumental in helping the LCMC set up a program for homeless men at a local shelter (and serves as a teaching assistant in this program). Whitley is currently writing an autobiography and plans to create another version geared to low-level readers. The Literacy Council of Montgomery County, established in 1963, is a non-profit, educational organization dedicated to helping adults achieve functional levels of reading, writing, and/or speaking English.