It was my first Leaders in Literacy Breakfast; the agency’s 5th annual. My student, B.R., and I were invited to sit at one of the tables and speak to guests about our experiences in the program. When I approached him about it, he was apprehensive, but agreeable. We attended a workshop last week, in preparation for the event. We volunteered to be the student-tutor pair for the role play exercise.

Shy B.R. began to speak. I could see him blush, but he sat tall and spoke clearly about what the literacy center meant to him.  I teared up, and I wasn’t alone. After the workshop, I spoke with several of the center staff and board members, all of whom were “blown away” by B.R.’s sincerity and enthusiasm (no surprise to me.) There was talk of him being the student speaker at next year’s breakfast.

Last night was our first lesson since the workshop, and the night before the breakfast. B.R. allowed as how he was a little nervous, so we went over the agenda: there would be opening remarks by the Executive Director, and speeches by a few people, including a student. When he heard that, B.R. said, “I might like to do that next year. I would be scared, but I think I could do it.” I told him that I knew he could do it.

I met B.R. at the center this morning, and we drove to the Washington Duke Inn,checked in, got our name tags, our buffet plates, and went to our assigned table. We had been instructed not to sit next to each other, to better allow us to interact with prospective  donors. While I chatted with our table mates, I took an occasional peek in B.R.’s direction. He was actively engaged in conversations, and although I overheard him say he was nervous, he seemed to be enjoying himself.

As things wound down, I talked with a staff member. She had missed the workshop, but had heard about B.R. She said that he was a unanimous candidate for student speaker next year. I told her that he had mentioned interest in doing it. We caught up with B.R., who was happily visiting with other guests. “Can you see yourself up there next year?” I asked him. “Yes ma’am.”

We walked through the grand lobby into the bright spring morning, past rows of shiny new cars. “This program is the best thing that’s ever happened to me,” B.R. smiled. “Those people were really nice. They really care. This is better than winning the lottery.” We drove back to the center and said our good byes. “Have a good weekend,” I told B.R. “You have a blessed day,” he replied. I pulled into the street and headed home. “I already have,” I said to no one in particular.

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