Luz, 52, was a GED student at The Literacy Project in Greenfield. She was born and raised in New York City. While at The Literacy Project, she was very active in student leadership activities, including this oral history project. Luz passed away in 2007.
I have been here for two years. I love school – school is my thing. When I got over here, to Greenfield, I went to the library because I like to go to the library. And I heard they were giving computer classes, which I had already taken. This was more updated, word processing. Microsoft Word, actually. And I finished there. Then I figured well, it’s time for my GED so I came here two years ago.
I like it here a whole lot. I get up early in the morning. I get up at 5 or 6 o’clock in the morning. I study before I get here.
[My favorite subject is] science. What I like about science is that you learn about the world. The solar atmosphere. You learn so much, you know. You learn a lot about the systems in the body, the animals. I’m really into animals.
I like breaking down court cases, cause you learn a lot. You learn a lot of words. How to take high level language in English and break it down. Plus you’re learning the meaning of the words.
I never liked history. Maybe because when I was a kid the lady used to not treat me right, so when I used to get history class I used to fall asleep in class cause I used to get so tired. So I guess I slept through history. That’s why I don’t remember the years of the wars and stuff like that.
I only went to the 9th grade. I used to love school back then. I was an A student, but my stepfather – we didn’t get along. He was too rude. I didn’t get along with my stepfather. So my sister took me out of the house. He was too rude and abusive so we split. We left. If my stepfather wasn’t there I would have been in school.
I was young. I was maybe 15 when I left the house. I think she was about 16. I never went nowhere without my sister. My sister was like my twin. I love her. We always connected.
We had to support ourselves. I worked in the cleaners. I worked in factories. A lot of other different jobs. Dressing up dolls, packing up candies, packing candy – you know the ‘Now and Later,’ eat some now, save some for later? You want me to name you jobs? Fuller brush company. My favorite job was actually working as a manager for a psychiatrist. I did many things, you know.
I’d really like to work for myself. I don’t like to work for anybody. I like to be my own boss. I’m independent. I like sales department. Probably like children’s clothes. Infant clothes.
Actually the last job was much, much better, was over here [at The Literacy Project]. I call them jobs, regardless. I know they’re not full time jobs. But with what I learned here, I gotta put it out there. As a community leader I’ve learned a lot and I’ve learned to teach. More than I used to. You get people to get involved in things that are very important like voting, safer sex education.
First I took the classes; I was trained. I worked as a facilitator and then I had to teach some workshops of my own. About safer sex. Here at The Literacy Project, Greenfield Gardens, Women in Action. At the beginning, I was kind of shy. It was fun and it was funny. [I liked it because it was] teaching, and to save people’s lives, especially teenagers nowadays.
[I was also part of the voter registration workshop.] I went out there in the street and I got the registry forms and send them all in and people came and voted. I got 26 people from the streets. Down the hill, anywhere I can. I walk in the street. I got nothing to do, I’ll talk to you. I am shy, but you gotta do what you gotta do.
[I wrote letters to support funding for adult education.] I wrote over a hundred and something odd letters, something like that, to the representatives, governors and directors and things like that. So that they won’t shut down the school.
They say that Massachusetts is a rich state. Well, it’s not rich for the poor people. It’s not, because you’re living on a certain income and you can stretch it but so far. And those checks do not – is not the sufficient amount, not even to buy yourself decent clothing or the best decent food that actually you need, even if you’re sick.
Like right now, for example, right? I’m sick for my liver. There’re foods that I’m supposed to be eating and they’re sky high. They’re things that I can’t afford. So why don’t they make this world affordable?
I have two children. One got murdered – 16 years old. It was awful.
The grief never goes away. You die with it. Life moves on.
My other son, he’s fine and well and good. He’s 25 yrs old. He didn’t want to [finish high school. He left in] 9th grade. Same like the mother. I don’t know why. Everybody says we’re the same.
I‘ve been trying to push [going back to school.] He’s been thinking about it. I want him to come here.
When I’m home – I teach him a couple of things that are very important. First of all, of life, of safer sex protection. But he’s not into drugs. He never hangs out in the street or nothing like that. He has a girl friend and that’s it. I guess that’s his whole life, the girl. If he wants more to life when that’s done, we’re going to discuss it.
Sometimes you gotta leave people alone to think about it. We just don’t come in and pressure. Nobody likes to be pressured into education. It’s gotta be within you. And I know it’s within him, so he’ll find it.
"I only went to the 9th grade. I used to love school back then. I was an A student, but my stepfather – we didn’t get along. He was too rude. I didn’t get along with my stepfather. So my sister took me out of the house. He was too rude and abusive so we split. We left. If my stepfather wasn’t there, I would have been in school."