Category Archives: Power of Reading

Literacy KC Student Story: Kim Kline

by Will Orlowski, Americorps VISTA, Ticket to Read Program Coordinator

“I want to complete everything you have to offer!” – Kim Kline

When I asked Kim Kline to sit down with me after her class on Monday, the first thing she wanted to know was what she had done wrong. I smiled and told her, “Nothing!” and that, in fact, she had done a lot right and I wanted to interview her for this blog post. She seemed surprised and a little bashful, telling me that she did not think anyone would want to read about her. Nevertheless, she was happy to answer my questions.

This is a perfect example of why Kim is an exemplary student. Kim is modest and polite, incredibly friendly and always willing to stick around and speak with me or the instructors if needed. She works hard and comes to class every week prepared and eager to learn more.

Kim with Limo

Kim (center) and other students pose on the red carpet before boarding the limo that would take them to the Literacy for All Luncheon. “The luncheon and the limo ride,” Kim says, “was one of the best days of my life.”

“I was tired of not being able to read,” Kim said to me when I asked what brought her to Literacy Kansas City. Retired now, Kim was born and raised in Topeka before moving to Kansas City to support her daughters and help raise her grandchildren. In fact, prior to retiring Kim worked in the daycare her grandchildren went to, caring for them and other Kansas City children. It was her family, Kim says, that helped her take the first step with her literacy.

“It was something I’d been wanting to do for years,” Kim told me. She had not had the courage to try until her daughters encouraged her, and when they referred her to Literacy KC she knew it was time to start.

“Before I started the program I was beginning to have a positive attitude, but since I started I’ve felt wonderful… For the first time in my life I believe that I can accomplish this.” Kim made sure to praise her teacher, Sarah Bell, particularly.

“Miss Sarah is a special person,” Kim said with a grin. “Miss Dorothy (Elliot) and Miss Brenda (Moore) are wonderful too, but all of them are great,” she also mentions, referring to the tutors that work with her class, which meets every Monday and Wednesday for an hour and a half. Currently, her class is reading about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and on Monday they read his famed “I Have a Dream” speech. The students all were asked to write about their own dreams, and Kim was quick to tell me hers.

“I want to complete everything you have to offer,” she says with determination, referring to the other programs offered at Literacy Kansas City. She is particularly interested in math tutoring and the digital life skills workshops designed to help students increase their comfort and efficiency with technology. Judging by her work ethic, this is definitely an achievable dream for Kim.

“Kim is such a positive presence in class,” her teacher Sarah told me. “She’s always there and she always works hard. She’s so friendly and so eager to learn.”

As I wrapped up my interview with Kim, I asked her if there was anything she wanted people to know. What she said left me feeling humbled and thankful to have the opportunity to work with people like Kim every day.

“I was nervous at first, but you (Literacy KC staff and volunteers) make everybody feel so special. I feel like you guys really want to help us and accomplish our goals. This place is helping me change my life!”


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Filed under For Students, For Tutors, For Volunteers, Power of Reading, Programs & Services, Student Spotlight, Uncategorized, Understanding the Need

Student JeVan McCurdy’s “insanely cool” experience at Literacy Kansas City

Twenty-nine-year-old JeVan McCurdy arrived at Literacy Kansas City the same way many of our students do: After he looked into completing his high school equivalency by taking the GED, the Smithville resident was encouraged to come to the Midtown-based nonprofit.


McCurdy: “I want to be at a higher pace, at a higher skill than I am now.”

The polite, soft-spoken student admits he was “skeptical” at first. His educational experiences growing up were somewhat negative, and he left his sophomore year of high school. While he says he still wasn’t sure about Literacy KC after his first term with the then new Ticket to Read program, he became fully engaged during his second term, when he met his current instructor, Phil Denver, former head of our GEARS program for MCC-Penn Valley.

“He actually showed me how to break words down and to sound them out,” JeVan explains. “So it helps a lot. And he made me more confident in my writing.”

In fact, one of the highlights of JeVan’s time with Literacy KC was when he wrote his first complete paper.

“When I sat there and I realized I wrote a whole entire paper, I was like, ‘Oh, wow.'”

He goes on to describe what this small, yet monumental victory means to him: “Three paragraphs, properly spelled . . . It’s insanely cool. It made me feel a lot better, way more confident than I have been.”

He also journals nearly daily now, which he says has been “excellent.”

Phil encourages writing in class as well as at home, and one topic in particular is a reflection of the current steps JeVan is taking to achieve his professional ambitions.

“It’s called ‘Lifelong Dreams,’ and mine is to actually be an Iron Chef.” JeVan lights up when discussing this, and it’s obvious how much it means to him that he can write about it. But it’s just a first step, of course. While he’s currently the head chef at a sports bar and grill in Smithville, MO, he still wants to get his GED, start taking college courses and eventually accomplish his professional goals as a chef.

“I want to be at a higher pace, at a higher skill than I am now,” JeVan says.

It’s apparent that he has been inspired to do well in class, even with his long commute from north of the river.


McCurdy (right) preps to tackle his reading and writing assignments with Ticket to Read Instructor Phil Denver (left) and fellow student Joseph Lewis

“It helps because we have an awesome teacher,” JeVan says of Phil, adding, “I always want to be there with him.”

Phil shares in his student’s joy at his successes in class. He talks about JeVan’s great leadership among the other students, and how his creativity comes through in his culinary skills. On one of the last days of summer classes, JeVan brought in a salsa he’d made. The class loved it. Phil laughs and said a student who didn’t even like salsa was devouring it.

But JeVan doesn’t mention any of this, preferring to talk about what Phil has accomplished in the classroom. “I feel like I’m learning a lot with Phil as a teacher. So that keeps me motivated. And just seeing how much I’ve improved from the past two semesters to now is keeping me motivated.”

Again, JeVan knows these are the first steps. But with Literacy KC’s committed teaching staff, volunteer tutors and expanding resources, he’ll get there.


Filed under For Students, For Tutors, For Volunteers, Power of Reading, Programs & Services, Student Spotlight, Uncategorized