Project Second Chance Students

Who are PSC Students?

Project Second Chance students are over 18 years of age, out of high school, generally read or write below a 6th grade level, and speak English well enough to communicate over the telephone and in person. While many PSC students are native English speakers, many others are non-native English speakers who can benefit from tutoring sessions that are conducted in English.

Approximately one-third of PSC students were born and educated in the United States, but they never learned to read and write at the level they wish – often due to some type of learning disability, such as dyslexia. The remainder are non-native English speakers.

Adults join PSC for a variety of reasons. People who lack basic literacy skills may have trouble filling out a job application, reading bills, sharing a book with a child, reading medicine labels, voting, and performing other everyday tasks that proficient readers take for granted. PSC students are real people, many of whom have grown up feeling inadequate and insecure. Their decision to face their fears and try one more time to learn requires courage, commitment, and discipline. For many, discovering that they can learn is almost as important as actually mastering the basic skills. With increased confidence and self-esteem, they participate more fully in their children’s education, look for new and better jobs, and move beyond the limits imposed by low literacy skills.  

We invite you to read Gladys' story of how the Library and PSC changed her life and to listen to her KGO radio interview.

Please also listen to a StoryCorps conversation between Oscar M. and his tutor, Lora Osterloh.

Videos Of PSC Students

Learn more about PSC students and the program by viewing these short and informative videos.

  • Kristi C. (3 minute video)
    Kristi is a PSC student who feels the program has impacted her life in a positive way.
  • Shawn A., Paula G. and Cricket H. (1 minute video)
    Three PSC students discuss what learning to read has meant to them.

Audio Of PSC Students

Listen to six PSC students describe their experiences.

Student Writings

Get to know some PSC students by reading their stories. Here are four stories to enjoy!

  • The Day My Dog Chose Me - by Lois B.

    I will always remember the day I went to the police training yard to select a dog. I opened my car door and saw five little puppies. They all ran away except one little, brown and black one. He jumped into my car; he chose me.
    The puppy was three weeks old and so smart! When we arrived home, he jumped up and down. He knew that he was home. I introduced him to my son, who named him “Fritz.”
    I enrolled Fritz in dog training school. He went three times and the trainer told me I was wasting my money because Fritz had a mind of his own. My son began training him, and Fritz learned to sit, fetch, attack, roll-over and stop.
    Fritz was so funny; he made us laugh all the time. He was more like a human than a dog. One summer he dragged his bedding in the dirt and tore it. When winter arrived, he didn’t have anything to sleep under in the garage. One morning my husband called me to come see what Fritz had done. He had pulled a blanket off the top of the washer and covered himself with it; only his eyes were showing. My husband and I had a good laugh.
    One winter night it was so cold that he wanted to come in the house. He pretended he was hurt and couldn’t walk. He limped and whined. My husband brought Fritz into the house and put him in front of the fireplace. It was late at night but we found a vet that would treat him. Just as we were ready to leave, I saw Fritz walking around. When he saw me looking at him he quickly laid down. When I told my husband that there was nothing wrong with him, Fritz got up, ran down the stairs to the garage, and dove under his blanket. When my husband and I went into the garage, Fritz pretended to be asleep.
    When Fritz became older, he could hardly stand because he developed arthritis in both hips. The vet gave him shots, which worked well at first. Eventually they did not last very long. Fritz would fall over when he tried to stand. I couldn’t bear to see that happen to him. My husband and I decided to put Fritz to sleep. I talked to Fritz about what was going to happen, and he knew what I was saying. He looked at me, started to get up and tried to circle around like he used to do when he chased his tail. He was trying to tell me, “Look. I’m okay.” I’ll never forget the look on his face. I kissed him, said goodbye, and went into the house to cry. My husband took Fritz to the vet. I went to my job but couldn’t concentrate; I was thinking about Fritz all day. Fritz left us in 1995. I still have his ashes. He had been with us for 17 years.
  • Andy Garcia? Brad Pitt? - by Sunhee P.

    When I had my first baby I hesitated to pick a Korean name or English name. I decided to pick both after I talked to my husband. I asked my father to pick a Korean name but I did not know how to pick an English name. I had a good idea after I really thought about it. I like movie actor “Andy Garcia.” I asked my husband but he did not like it very much. So we searched a name book and decided to name our first baby Andy.
    Four years later, I had my second boy. I liked the movie star “Brad Pitt” at that time. But my husband didn’t agree with me because Brad’s name sounded like “bread.” So we put different dollars on the table (like $1, $5, $10, $20, $100), but I didn’t know which one was best. My husband picked up the $100 with a smile because it was the biggest money and Benjamin Franklin is on the $100 bill. Finally we pick the name “Benjamin” for our second baby.
  • My Story - by Doug Humphrey

    For years I have lived a double life. By day I was a successful businessman working as a head supervisor for a building maintenance company. By night, I bore a heavy secret, one that would destroy my career; terrified if known - I could not read.
    I enjoyed a successful career but it was always filled with anxiety. Every day I went to the office early to plan my strategy for the day. To cover up my inability to read at work I would complain about the sloppy note taking and get someone to interpret the handwriting. I was thrilled when the office got voice mail, no more hand written telephone messages. Out of the office I used every excuse in the book. When you look at someone, you can't tell if they can read or write so I got away with it for years. I would tell people I forgot my glasses (I didn't wear glasses), or I had a headache, or I didn't have time to read. In restaurants I would look around at the food being served, order from the "specials" (they were always recited by the waitperson) or ask the people I was with what they were ordering, "sounds good, I'll have the same."
    Constant stress finally caught up to me. I suffered a stroke one day while sitting at my desk. Even then, I never took a day off from work. Only after major surgery did I stop working - under doctor's orders.
    At the beginning of my retirement, I sat home depressed until my wife encouraged me to call Project Second Chance. That was four years ago. Project Second Chance is a free adult literacy program funded through the Contra Costa County Library that offers one-on-one tutoring to people older than 16, who are enrolled in school and who speak English.
    My call led to a meeting with my tutor. My steady lessons and homework on the alphabet, phonics and spelling blossomed into an ability to read and write notes. I never thought I would do the things most people take for granted, such as reading a book, ordering from a restaurant menu, or reading street signs. When I first started it was scary and hard. The first feeling you get is a fear of failure.
    My reason for joining the program was to face a lifelong fear. Now four years later, conquering that fear has allowed me to know the simple joy of ordering from a restaurant menu, reading signs, reading my birthday cards for the first time, and best of all, reading to my grandchildren. Before, it never crossed my mind that I could do this. Every day, life is becoming easier.
  • Kite Battles - by Wahid A.

    As long as I live, I will never forget my friends and the kind of games that we played in KABUL (Afghanistan). There were a lot of games that we played with each other. Kite battles were our favorite game. This game is very famous especially among the teenagers in my country. Afghan kites are different form the kites that Americans fly. In Afghanistan people fly kites for fun and battle. Usually boys fly different sizes of kites, and the bigger kites are more powerful.
    People used glass powder, glue, and other materials to make the kites' string sharp. The string became so sharp that it could slice through human skin. They made the string sharp to cut other kites' string during battle.
    Most people flew their kites from their roofs. Some boys fell down from their roofs and injured themselves or even died. I remember when I was twelve I fell down from my roof when I was flying a kite. I hurt myself and I wasn't able to walk for two months. After that my parents always advised me not to fly a kite on the roof.
    Usually during the winter, most of the time people enjoyed flying kites, but on the weekends a lot of people came together at a special place outside of town for kite battles. Some people were flying kites, others were trying to catch the free kites (cut kites), and others were watching and enjoying the kite battles.
    People flew their kites very high and then battled with each other. Sometimes free kites didn't touch down, they flew like balloons and nobody knew where they went. Sometimes free kites came from far away. I remember that boys waited for hours to catch free kites that were coming from other parts of the city. When the boys saw the free kites, they ran to catch them. The kites that came from the center of the city were more beautiful because most of the famous kite makers and kite shops were there.
    I hope some time in the future I will visit my hometown during the winter, and I can see kite battles again.

If you would like to read more stories from our published collections please contact our office.