In their Words...

Cecilia's determination, Donna’s compassionate guidance, and your generosity are a testament to the power of community.

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Volunteer Profiles - A Love of Learning Leads to Literacy and More

In their Words...

Cecilia's determination, Donna’s compassionate guidance, and your generosity are a testament to the power of community.

Cecilia Ogarrio-Munoz stood before a packed crowd of cheering family and supporters at the Henry J. Mello Center for the Performing Arts in Watsonville. Proudly wearing her cap and gown, Cecilia walked across the stage to receive her high school equivalency degree, or GED. At the same time, she was awarded a prestigious scholarship from the local chapter of Soroptimist International of the Americas, in recognition of her outstanding educational achievements.

It was just a year prior that Cecilia began taking classes for her degree. In that time, she took classes at the Adult School, passing the required tests in mathematics, science, social sciences, and language arts. Since receiving her GED, Cecilia enrolled at Cabrillo College to study for her Associate degree in childhood development. She also launched a small business tutoring school children in Spanish as a second language.


How is all of this possible for a woman from Oaxaca, San Pablo Huixtepec, who had to stop attending school after the 6th grade to help her family? How has Cecilia, who has worked without stopping since she left school, raised two amazing teenage daughters, and helped her husband in his work, achieved such aspirational educational goals?


This triumphant moment was made possible by Cecilia’s drive, her compassionate Literacy Tutor, Donna Haraway, and the connection they forged through the donor-supported Literacy Program at the Volunteer Center of Santa Cruz County.  In short, it was made by possible by people like you, donating to support individuals like Cecilia who have the drive to achieve their dreams!


Cecilia loves to learn, has always loved to learn, and in 2014 she joined the Literacy Program to study English with a tutor. She decided she needed to learn English so that she could speak with her daughters’ teachers. But, perhaps more, so that she could expand her world in Santa Cruz and develop her ability in languages and in storytelling. She had always mourned leaving school at such a young age, and she rejoiced in taking up studying again in her 40s, despite the long days and extra hard work.


In the beginning, Cecilia says she was terrified. Donna, her tutor, was also afraid. Cecilia knew almost no English; Donna knew no Spanish at all. But in a very short time, Cecilia and Donna became friends as well as student and teacher. They have met weekly in Donna’s kitchen over café con leche y chocolate ever since. Now, before her English lessons, Cecilia tutors Donna and her husband Rusten (also a tutor in the Literacy Program) in Spanish.


Both Donna and Cecilia loved the reading. Together, they began their learning with bilingual children’s books like The Woman Who Outshone the Sun, La Mujer Que Brillaba Aún Más Que el Sol, and years later, studying the Chicana feminist Gloria Anzaldúa’s Borderlands, La Frontera. Throughout her lessons with Donna, Cecilia wrote moving stories about her childhood, her mother, her grandfather, her town, its animals, and her hopes for the future of her daughters and herself. Cecilia’s stories were funny, evocative, and full of vivid detail. A retired professor at the University of California at Santa Cruz, Donna recognized that Cecilia has a rare talent for telling powerful life stories. Someday, Cecilia and Donna want to gather her stories together to publish them for a wide audience. While these stores show progress in writing English, they detail past and present lives unfolding in humor and love.


You see, it was through the donor-supported Literacy Program that Cecilia was matched with retired UCSC educator Donna Haraway as her tutor.


Donna is in awe of Cecilia’s achievements, and she is grateful for the privilege of being her tutor. The whole Literacy Program congratulates Cecilia for what she has achieved and for her spirit of care and generosity toward others. In English and Spanish, Cecilia is súper!


And, to the donors of the Literacy Program – Thank you for believing in the potential of every individual. Your generosity is not just changing individual lives; it’s uplifting our entire communities!


Give Your Time

There are many more English-learners like Cecilia who need your help as a tutor! Sign up for a free informational tutor session here.

Don’t have time to tutor? Make a donation today to provide essential learning materials to the students.

There are so many ways to GIVE – and they all make a difference!

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