Maria Tovar Becomes 100th Family Literacy Academy GED Recipient
Last updated 6/16/2019 at 10:03am
Maria Tovar just achieved two major milestones: she obtained her high school equivalency diploma (GED) and became the 100th person to accomplish that goal with the help of the Lake Wales Family Literacy Academy.
Cleaning houses for a living and taking care of her 5- and 8-year-old children kept her so busy that there were times she thought about quitting. She dropped out of Lake Wales High School her junior year and wasn't sure she would ever be able to earn a GED or go to college.
"They gave me a lot of motivation," Tovar said of the free program that has served more than 1,500 area adults and children in the past 14 years. "I honestly at one point didn't think I'd be able to do it, but 'Never give up,' that's what they taught me."
Gail Crum, one of the co-founders and directors of the Family Literacy Academy, said Tovar entered the program this year and worked hard to prepare for the tests. The GED has four components: language arts, math, science and social studies.
"She came to class faithfully, and did her class work religiously," Crum said, noting after passing three of the sections it looked like Tovar might need more work in math. But Tovar called with the good news that she had passed the math test and was ready to pursue her dream of a college degree.
Polk State College is a partner with the Academy and provides scholarship opportunities as an incentive for those earning their GEDs.
Tovar said she is planning to attend Polk State and pursue a career in the medical field.
She is grateful for the Family Literacy Academy: "I'm really thankful for the program. I'm really happy. They helped me a lot with everything. They encouraged me a lot."
The Academy offers day and evening programs that help families with reading and math so they can better support their children in school. The whole family comes together for a meal, tutoring and educational activities for children along with tutoring for the parents to obtain their GEDs.
The Family Literacy Academy was founded in 2005 with a grant from the Barbara Bush Family Literacy Foundation. It subsequently has received support from Polk State College, Mountain Lake Service Corporation, United Way of Central Florida, the Dollar General Literacy Foundation and a wide range of other organizations and individuals. The academy focuses on four areas: adult education, education of children (the next generation), adults and children growing together, and life skills.
Crum and co-founder Deming Cowles were honored at a special banquet in May and the Family Literacy Academy was named 2019 Community Service Organization of the Year by the Lake Wales Area Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Council.
Crum expressed her pride in what Tovar accomplished and offered her congratulations: "Congratulations, Maria, and thanks for working with us. With the combination of diligence and smarts, you will go far."