Local program breaking the cycle of illiteracy

By Holley Nees - bio | email

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - Even Start in Diboll is designed to break the cycle of illiteracy among low-income families, or those that are at an educational disadvantage.

It's a program available all over Texas, but the program in Diboll receives the smallest amount of funding from the state, but it's still one of the most successful.

Success stories line the wall inside the Diboll Even Start building.

"I come in to learn English and I think, in the future, I will speak perfect English," said parent, Nayeli Magdaleno.

"We are learning English," said another parent, Brenda Torres.

Torres is one of many parents who come with their children to even start to learn a new language.

"The children have to grow up, right," Torres said. "And, when they start school, even my baby, he's 3-years-old, and he starts to talk to me in English. Now I know what he's saying, but back then, I [didn't] know."

When she couldn't understand what her own child was saying, she knew something had to change.

"It's something people say in Mexico," Torres said. "If you are in the stadium, you have to play the game. Well, we are in the United States, so we have to talk, speak English."

Now, she's playing the game and she's thrilled even to be able to talk with KTRE.

"I'm so happy because I look at your face," she said. "Your face is amazing because I can communicate with other people."

People like Torres are the reason Charlotte Morris keeps the program running.

"I'm an educator by heart," said Diboll Even Start Director Charlotte Morris. "Not by trade. Not by education. It's by heart, and I believe in that."

She believed in it enough to keep the program afloat last year when they didn't have state funding.

"We're always struggling for money," Morris said. "We're always struggling for grants and to try to do more things for our families, but that's what goes with it. That's what drives me."

She wants parents to learn to be their child's first teacher.

"They're a model program," said External Evaluator for Diboll Even Start Ann Gundy. "The rest of the state looks to them for advice and for help."

Torres is thankful.

"I understand what he's saying," said Torres. "I can help him, and for me it's something great, you know?"

Aside from learning together, the program also encourages parents to do activities with their children; like visit the library and go to their children's sporting events.

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