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Impact  >  Student Story

Christopher Williams

Chris receives the DLC’s 2010 Charles Winstead Student Leadership Award for his wonderful contributions to the DLC community. Chris is a leader in the fight for adult literacy and adult education:

Christopher Williams is a familiar face to many in Durham.  As a City laborer and a volunteer at DPAC and many area festivals, he knows a lot of people from a wide range of Durham communities.   While many feel they know Christopher, he has spent a lifetime holding himself apart from other people for fear that they would learn about his inability to read.  He explains, “So, what I use to do is always stand away from people.  The farther I stayed away, I felt like they couldn’t find out that I couldn’t read.”
Even though Christopher has a high school diploma, he reads at a 1st grade level.  He openly describes his frustration, being pushed through school and how he coped with illiteracy.  “I use to be frustrated with myself.  I got my diploma, but I always blamed myself because I thought that I was the problem in school.”



Christopher was placed in special education classes all throughout school and often felt like he was a burden on his teachers.  He didn’t know why he had reading difficulties but felt like he was pushed through because his teachers, overwhelmed with oversized classes, did not have the time or the resources to give him the individualized instruction he needed.



Things changed for Christopher in 2009. At age 55, he came to the Durham Literacy Center and was placed on the Adult Literacy Program’s waitlist for 6 months.  He called the Center frequently to find out if there was a tutor and space for him.  In August 2009, Christopher met his first DLC tutor, Gregg Kreizman, and began taking lessons.



Christopher says, “I been there from that time…making sounds out of words.  Nobody ever took the time with me for that …I enjoy going to the class, Monday and Tuesday.  And I have accomplished a lot since I been there!”



One of Christopher’s goals at the Center is to read his own letters.  “Instead of asking people to read them, I want to be able to do it myself.”  Christopher speaks often about the need to look forward to the future, and not dwelling on the past. 

Chris began speaking on behalf of the DLC at the public opening of a photography exhibit on Adult Literacy learners at Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy in 2010.  Since then, he’s been a featured speaker at our Leaders in Literacy Breakfast and Annual Board meeting.  Chris was also recently interviewed by Angela Hampton on ABC 11’s Heart of Carolina Perspective.   As a guest on the show, Chris shared his personal story and his motivation for learning how to read.



Chris continues to encourage other people who struggle with their reading to seek help. In fact, he has successfully recruited several students who are currently enrolled in our program.  He says to them, “If I can do it, you can do it!”  Thank you so much Chris!  We appreciate all you’ve done.He plans to continue volunteering across Durham and, eventually, would like to help teach others to read.

Chris Williams speaks at the Durham Literacy Center’s 2010 Leaders in Literacy Breakfast, which was held at the Washington Duke Inn.