Staff Member Explains Why She Strongly Supports MTC’s Focus on Literacy


STILL th anniv Scott Literacy
Vanessa Vasquez, Director, Academic Programs

As part of MTC’s 40th anniversary celebrations, MTC staff are invited to participate in four community service projects, one for each quarter.

In the first quarter, we’ll help improve literacy. For the second quarter, we’ll tackle hunger. In the third quarter, we’ll fight mental illness. And finally in the fourth quarter, we’ll work to ease the pain caused by homelessness. When she heard about our focus on literacy for the first quarter, corporate staff member Vanessa Vasquez was so pleased. She shares her story here.

Hi, I’m Vanessa Vasquez. I work at the corporate office, and I’m so excited that Scott has decided to make literacy one of the four areas we’ll focus on this year for our 40th anniversary. You see, literacy is such a personal topic for me and my family.

Frederick Douglas said, “Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.” My six siblings and I know first-hand the truth of that statement.

My mother grew up in extreme poverty.  She often went without meals, and some days her only meal came from the fruit trees in the neighborhood. Her father returned to the Philippines when she was a young girl and did not return. Her mother, although born in Hawaii, never learned to speak English and only spoke Spanish. She was also illiterate.

My mother loved school. She hated math but she loved to read.  She always looked forward to the Christmas celebrations at the Salvation Army because she could always count on receiving a book as a gift. She often walked to the library to read books. However, she could not borrow any of them because her mother would not go with her to sign for a library card.

My six siblings and I grew up very differently than my mom. Print surrounded us; we had a set of encyclopedias, the yearly World Book, the Lincoln Library, magazine subscriptions, and dictionaries. We took frequent trips to the public library, returning home with our arms full of books.  My sisters and I were afforded piano, sewing, dance, and cooking lessons.

We often marveled at how our growing up years were so different from our mom’s. Shortly before my mother passed away, my sisters and I asked her how we grew up so differently than she did. How was it that our lifestyle was so unlike her own as a child? Her answer: “Because I read and because I read, I knew there was a world beyond my own, beyond poverty. Through reading, I learned about things and experiences I could only imagine at the time, but I promised myself that I would break the cycle of poverty, and I was able to do it because I read.”