In a ceremony at the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock a literacy student with the Van Buren County Literacy Council, was awarded the 2014 Student of the Year in Adult Literacy for the State of Arkansas.

The award is given each year by the Arkansas Bar Association. Literacy councils across the state nominate students to receive this honor, and Fred Espinosa was chosen as the outstanding student.

Espinosa first came to the Van Buren County Literacy Council to study reading in March 2012 after finding a card telling about the council’s tutoring services at the food bank where he was volunteering. He slipped it into his pocket when no

one was looking because he was embarrassed that at age 60, he could not read very well. It took six months for him to get the courage to call the director to ask for help.

He told the director that when he was in school, it was extremely difficult for him to read the material, and also to read the tests and write the answers. He would stay up half the night trying to do his homework so he could get credit for it. School was a huge struggle, but Espinosa had the motivation to stick with it and did graduate from high school.

Fred worked for Terminex Pest Control in Little Rock for 24 years. Despite his reading and writing difficulties, in his seventh year at Terminex, he received the yearly award for the Outstanding Pest Technician for the state of Arkansas. Later

in his career, he was required to use the computer to keep records of his customers. Using the computer was a struggle for Espinosa.

An even tougher battled began when he was diagnosed with cancer. Espinosa had surgery and spent six months recovering. He was unable to return to his job and he relocated to Clinton.

Twice a week for a year and a half, Espinosa attended class at the Literacy Council without fail. His positive attitude and motivation to succeed were evident as he started learning phonics and the process of blending sounds into words, which was very difficult for him at first. His confidence soared and he started reading much more fluently and with expression. He always finished his homework and brought it to class. He practiced reading at home by checking out chapter books from the council’s leveled book library. He has found that reading his Bible is easier.

In July 2013, serious stage 4 cancer returned and Espinosa had to discontinue classes while he was going through frequent heavy chemotherapy for four months. He is now cancer-free and has returned to class.

Espinosa is again active in his church and also volunteers at the hospital as well as the food bank. He has been a key volunteer in the council’s Music Festival fundraiser for the past two years by distributing publicity information around town, transporting a grill to the fairgrounds, and cooking the hot dogs and hamburgers during the festival. He also informs others about the Literacy Council and refers students for help with reading.

Espinosa inspires everyone with his big smile, positive attitude, and motivation to continue to improve his reading.