The Rapidian

Tonja's story: former adult learner graduates college with awards

This dispatch was added by one of our Nonprofit Neighbors. It does not represent the editorial voice of The Rapidian or Community Media Center.

Tonja shared her story after successfully moving on to receive a college education after participating in the program.
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Building a literate community and transforming lives.

The Literacy Center of West Michigan is a nonprofit organization founded in 1986 that provides literacy services to over 1,500 adult learners through the Adult Tutoring Program, Family Literacy Program, and the Customized Workplace English™ Program. The Adult Tutoring Program provides reading, writing, and English as a second language (ESL) instruction to adult learners at no cost.  The Customized Workplace English™ Program offers West Michigan businesses literacy and English language training services and free English classes for adults in the workforce and job seekers. The Family Literacy Program offers reading, writing, and ESL instruction, workshops, and family literacy events in partnership with the Head Start for Kent County and Grand Rapids Public Schools. The Literacy Center’s Community Literacy Initiative is a coalition that seeks to empower community leaders, parents, and residents to improve literacy for all ages.  The Literacy Center is a United Way partner agency and an accredited member of ProLiteracy America. To learn more about the Literacy Center, please visit: or call (616)459-5151.

Tonja Lofton was an adult learner in the Literacy Center of West Michigan's Adult Tutoring Program.  Tonja shared her story after successfully moving on to receive a college education after participating in the program.

Hello my name is Tonja Lofton and I am a former adult learner and recent college graduate. I attended the Literacy Center back in 2004-2007 and my tutor’s name was Sue Sandberg. While at the Literacy Center, I attended several recognition dinners and received several awards.

I graduated from Grand Rapids Community College in the winter of 2009 with an Associate in Arts. I became dual enrolled with Ferris State University of Grand Rapids in the winter of 2010. Well, on May 5, 2012, I graduated with my Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice and Emphasis in Homeland Security.

I have had a great journey! In my college career, I gained valuable leadership, creative thinking, and management skills. During the 2010-2011 school year, I served as Vice President of Student Congress. During the 2011-2012 school year, I served as President of Student Congress. During my tenure, I have won many awards and nominations: The Brian Benhem Service Awards (nominated twice, won once), and The Salute to Women Award (the highest honor as a student). I have been nominated twice for the Brian Kloet Award (the highest student recognition from Student Life). I have had articles written, photos in magazines and billboards that are up around town today.

I write this letter not to gloat, but to say thank you! Thank you for giving me the stepping stones and the foundation for a path of excellence. Without the guidance and direction of the Center, I know that without a shadow of doubt I would have traveled a different path. The Literacy Center helped when no one would give me a chance and doors were closed every corner I turned. I would like to take this moment to say THANK YOU!


Tonja Lofton

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