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Literacy is Powerful

My name is Milton Whitley. I am 57 years old and until five years ago, could barely read or write. School was especially hard for me. The teacher used to spank me with a big stick when I didn’t know something. It put fear in my heart and made it hard for me to learn. People called me retarded. I believed I was retarded. I dropped out of school when I was 14. Didn’t know what to do because I couldn’t read or write. For a long time, I worked in a sign shop installing signs. But, when I hung these signs I didn’t even know what they were saying. If one letter was off, if it was spelled wrong, I didn’t even know. Not knowing how to read or write made everything difficult. It made me boil with anger inside. I was using drugs. I got with people just like me; used drugs; no education. I didn’t care about education. All I knew were slang words. Street language. One time, I was given a form to fill out at a doctor’s office. I couldn’t read a word. I sat in my chair staring at the paper for a long


Back home in Nigeria, I used to wake up as early as 5am, say the morning prayer with my family and head out to deliver crates of bottled soda (Coca-Cola and Limca products) to customers before heading to school. My mum was the owner of the business and I and my siblings had to help deliver the products to customers in other to make gain. This became my daily routine. School started by 8:30am, but sometimes, before I finish my morning routine and get to school, it was already 8:45 or 9am. This happened at least three times out of the five school days a week. In my secondary school (Christ the King College Onitsha) late coming is against the school rule and attracts punishment. My principal, Mr. Olisa, had a way of getting late comers. At the assembly ground, each class prefect would write down the names of students that attended the morning assembly. And if your name was not on the list, like mine sometimes, sorry for you. Mr. Olisa would lie in wait for late comers and lash them with a cain that we call KOBOKO. Getting the lashes made me think: ‘should I skip my morning

“You will hustle to your position every time”

“On the field!” It’s been twenty-five years, and I can still hear the growling voice of Coach Burkhead yelling at my teammates and me. “Off the field!” It was supposed to be a normal baseball practice with my Police Boys Club #8 team in Northwest DC. But Coach Burkhead spotted one of my teammates walking off the field in between innings of our previous game. Now, we all were paying for it. “On the field!” For the rest of the practice, Coach Burkhead had us sprint from the bench to our positions on the field, and then back again. Dozens — and dozens — and dozens of times. “Welcome to the real world, gentlemen,” he said at the end of practice. “You will hustle to your position every time.” Today, such behavior from a coach might prompt threats of a lawsuit from outraged parents. Back in the mid-1980s it was what you came to expect from Coach Burkhead. He was an institution within Police Boys Club #8. A gruff, thickly-built cop, he intimidated younger kids who had yet to have him as a coach and inspired devotion among older players who had survived a year or two on his team.

Always have faith!

One of the most important things I have learned is to never give up and to always believe in yourself. I have experienced this many times, but there is one instance which has really thought me the true meaning of it. While in my freshman year of high school, I had some trouble to deal with. My school days consisted of write-up after write-up. I was asked to apprehend my cellular device but refused to. One thing led to another and soon I was suspended from school. This got me very behind in school and made me fail big tests and quizzes because I didn’t know the material that was needed to pass. I was suspended more than once over a long period of time. Some of my teachers would send work home that I was asked to do and turn back in, but not all of my teachers and classes did this, which brought my grade average way down. I finally realized I had to achieve good grades to get promoted to the next grade level; I was going to have to make big and great changes. I started putting my cell phone up and paying attention in school.

There will be noise

When I was about 11 years old, I listened to some pretty cool music. I loved jazz and metal. While I was getting into music, my sister was dating a musician. He always brought his guitar over, and played the music I loved. I thought it was the coolest thing in the world. Around the same time my mom signed me up for guitar lessons in Athens at Music Exchange. After taking lessons for a while, I realized that it was getting nowhere, and that my teacher was horrible. I still had a strong desire to do music though. After quitting my lessons, I started purchasing guitar technique books. They taught me a lot. I also would watch legendary guitarists such as: Tosin Abasi, Misha Mansoor, and Paul Gilbert. They would break down how to do certain things on their videos. After all the years of studying technique, I met a producer from Atlanta. We quickly started writing jams and recording rough stuff. He introduced me to a form of electronic music which I loved from the second I heard it. I quickly learned to make and produce this music. I took a break from my recording days, and joined

Learning To Learn

I believe the most important thing to learn is to learn how to learn. I’ve been in school for ten years and from my experience with my studies I realize that I would be no where if I didn’t know how to successfully learn. I remember very vividly a time when learning was key to moving forward. I was in the sixth grade and the end of the year was coming fast, my grades were slowly slipping I didn’t know what to do. I desperately needed help so I decided to stay afterschool and go in for help. My teacher knew exactly what to do; she took it back to the very beginning and asked me a deep question; what is learning? Seeing as how I couldn’t answer the question, she told me the answer. She told me that learning is taking skills and utilizing them to make them stick. A now easy simple question led to conversation which went deeper and deeper, making me think harder than ever. After that day my grades went up, my attitude changed and I realized what I needed to do; I need to gain more knowledge. I need to learn more. This experience

Writing Comes In Handy

My most important thing learned in life it is writing. Because every day you always have to write something. Also you need to learn how to type on a computer. When I was in the first grade I wanted to write a letter to my mom and I didn’t know how to spell some of the words. Which made it really hard and to top it off I just learned how to write in general so that made it tougher. So I had to get my first grade teacher to help me and it just made the process a lot harder and longer! It took me about almost a whole week to just write a note to my mom. It wasn’t even a long on or that hard of one, it was just something that I wanted to do since it was my first letter to anyone and I wanted it to be to my mom. When I was a little bit older I had to learn how to type. That was a good thing and that is the other best thing that I have learned in my life. Because there are a lot of people in the world that


My skill started when I first got my Playstation 3 for Christmas two years ago and I played by myself until I played against Travis Hill and got admitted in the 7o6 Playstation Network clan. Although he beat me thirty to twenty-one, he still thought that I was good enough to join. I didn’t always play with Travis on Playstation, it was maybe five months before I started playing with Travis, and I think that I got good enough by playing that time by myself, and I didn’t really know the meaning of teamwork at first and I quickly figured out that the 7o6 clan was a very teamwork-based clan, especially after I got chewed out by all of the other, more experienced members, but then I proved myself to the entire team by winning an important match against one of our rivals with a 4 v. 1 clutch (a clutch is just when a player by themselves beats at least four of the other players on the other team). The only reason that I chose this as the most important skill is because of the things that it taught me by playing with teamwork, which are basic things like

Comparisons Are Easily Made

Personally, I think that people learn from their surroundings and the events that have gone on in their past. I’ve never really had any self confidence or faith in myself. I was always compared to my older sister and brothers, and, really, mainly my sister because she’s good at everything. She’s very pretty, skinny, a great artist, and a majorette at the University of Georgia. I was never anything like her and I couldn’t stand always being in her shadow. I’m the exact opposite of her and I always felt like I could never do anything right, if it wasn’t the way my sister did it. My sister could do no wrong when it came to my father, and everything was always my fault. I rarely liked to play sports on a team, because I didn’t like people watching me, especially if I messed up. Well, I had never shown pigs before and I wanted to try it in the 9th grade. I really had no idea about how to go about it or anything about it in general. When I started, I still didn’t know much. I tried my best to do everything like the other people who had


I was always a good student and school was always easy for me. But as I got older, school got harder and I needed help with a lot of my work. I just expected to stumble through every class and get the good grades I got in my previous years. This was wrong for me to do because I knew that I was more capable than that. One day at the beginning of 9th grade, I stayed after school to make up a math quiz because I failed it and needed a better grade to pass. My teacher, Mr. Roach, asked me, “How did you do on your quiz?” I told him I didn’t know because I knew that I had failed and was too embarrassed to tell him. He told me that I did know, and more than that, he said that I should be getting an ‘A’ on every test in every class. This shocked me. But it also made something stand out in me. What if he was right? Turned out, he was. When I saw that first ‘A’ on my report card it made me feel good and I wanted to do good for the rest

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