Six years ago, Kathy Schultz, 37, could only read her name. She couldn't write it - or anything else. She kept her world small, staying at home to raise her children. Only her husband knew her secret. She lived in fear that someone would find out. She felt as if she were the only non-reader in America.
Ruby Simon, 49, "faked" her way through life. She worked in sales, for which she had a talent, but she couldn't do her own paperwork. She was illiterate. And when her job "played itself out," she was in trouble. She couldn't even fill out an application form to get another one. And she felt as if she were the only non-reader in America.Julio Fernandez, 26, brought his wife and twin daughters to the U.S. from Puerto Rico. He was frightened because he couldn't speak English. But he was determined to survive - and thrive - for the sake of his family.
Coming to the United States was a dream for Catherine Ho, who had spent 21 years in prisons and labor camps in her native China because she wouldn't renounce her religion. Although she studied English as a child, Ho found she could neither understand nor communicate in her new surroundings.
Saturday, these four were honored by the Literacy Volunteers of America as newly literate adults who "reached for the gold" in a U.S. Mint essay contest. The four, selected in beginner and advanced categories of basic reading and English as a second language, each received a one-ounce American Eagle Gold Bullion $50 coin, as well as a trip to the national literacy conference to receive their awards. The entrants wrote about the personal meaning they found in the American eagle. Forty finalists received silver coins.
The awards were presented by Gov. Norm H. Bangerter, Wally ("Famous") Amos and Dave Pickens, a representative from the U.S. Mint.
Fernandez, who has studied English for about eight months, said language has been his big problem. "But now I am fighting to win it, because I can see a light in my way. Like an eagle teaching her birds to fly, my tutor is teaching me how I can fly in the hard air of the English language."
Simon wrote about an eagle that was caged next door when she was a child. The eagle injured itself trying to escape. But one day its owner let it go and Simon never forgot the thrill of seeing it free at last. "Sometimes, when life gets almost too hard for me, I think about that eagle I knew when I was a child and I say to myself I have to keep on trying, just keep on trying like the eagle."
Ho, who escaped from the Communist regime in China, wrote: "Here I enjoy the freedom and humanism which I had not gotten in China. Here I can choose my future freely which was cut off to me in China. I love the American eagle. Under its wings, I have started a new life."