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Library's literacy and high school program help woman turn life around

Imagine trying to navigate the world around you if you don’t know something as basic as your ABCs. That was the case for Amelia Sandoval. Basic tasks like using her phone’s GPS or reading a bus sign were beyond her and this was damaging all aspects of Amelia’s life–her career, her health and her happiness.

After being released from prison, Amelia lost more than 30 jobs over a five year period. She wanted to get her high school diploma and tried continuing education to get a GED, but because she struggled with reading and writing, she couldn’t find success. This led to a major bout of depression during which she reports she drank too much and developed diabetes.

This is when she heard about READ/San Diego. Amelia applied and says READ/San Diego and its staff were there to help her get back on track. “I didn’t know my ABCs when I started with the library’s adult literacy program. And learning to read was difficult. The hardest part was learning how to break up the words. I started with just three letter words.” Laughing, she added, “But I can read way more than three letter words now.”

Library Director Misty Jones with Amelia at her graduation.
Amelia Sandoval gives commencement comments to 2019 graduating class of the Library Career Online High School.

After making progress with her literacy studies, Career Online High School (COHS) was the next step toward Amelia’s goals. “I had attended a prior COHS graduation because of the free food,” Amelia joked. “But it was during the [ceremony] that I realized I wanted to graduate and get my diploma.”

Amelia applied in 2017 and was accepted for one of the Career Online donor-sponsored scholarships. She said, “I wanted to read better and I really wanted to get my diploma.” During her time at COHS, Sandoval made her education her sole focus, setting aside all other activities.

Sandoval graduated on May 15, 2019 and in commencement remarks to the graduating class, she reflected on how far she has come in the past five years with Library support. She is now enrolled in a cyber security class to complete the next steps in her education. “I went from being a career criminal to a productive member of society,” Amelia said. “It makes me feel great that I’ve accomplished these goals.”