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Toyota Family Literacy Programs

Jamahl Turner | Toyota Family Learning

Jamahl Turner, a 28-year-old father, National Guard sergeant, and recent graduate of Toyota Family Learning at Milwaukee Environmental Sciences School (MES), was recently selected to serve on State Schools Superintendent Tony Evers' Parent Advisory Council. Jamahl's attendance at Evers' annual address on the state of education in Wisconsin was recently noted by Madison.com.

A representative for Tony Evers had listened to Jamahl's impassioned speech at the MES Toyota Family Learning graduation in June 2015 and recommended the MES team nominate him to sit on the state school superintendent's Parent Advisory Council.

Jamahl is excited about the opportunity, especially the chance to make an impact on the lives of youth and pursue his love of public speaking. "I was nominated to do this because of my effort with Toyota Family Learning. My passion for being involved with my children led to me being a member of this council," he said, noting that he is the council's youngest member.

Jamahl spoke to how his involvement in Toyota Family Learning redeveloped his confidence to implement new activities and be more engaged in the education of his 3- and 5-year old boys.

"The Toyota Family Learning program was able to not only enhance my family core values but as well as compel and propel not only myself but as well as their mother and my kids to actually enhance our learning experience as far as everything you learn daily and in school."

His story resonated with the audience, which included not only his fellow graduate families but also state and local leaders and executives from Toyota and NCFL.

"Learning about Jamahl's newest leadership opportunity only furthers our confidence that Toyota Family Learning is opening doors and lifting up whole families," NCFL President and Founder Sharon Darling said. "We are so proud of Jamahl and MES' commitment to learning and helping families in the Milwaukee community succeed."

Sallie Brown, a key member of Toyota Family Learning's program team in Milwaukee, describes Jamahl as a leader by example. "He has always been involved with his kids," she said, "but now it's much more education-focused."

Jamahl also enjoys music and spoken word poetry and together with friend who's a classically trained pianist "has created some of the most melodic and beautiful hip-hop that's come out of Milwaukee" as recently reviewed by Piet Levy of the Journal Sentinel.

Click here to read the results of Goodling Institute for Family Literacy at Penn State University's independent evaluation of 2014-15 Toyota Family Learning programming, which served 296 predominately low-income families (including 860 children).

The Maldonado Family | Toyota Family Literacy Program

When the Maldonado family moved to the United States from Mexico, they lived in a garage. They covered up the holes to keep out the cold and the mice. There was no bed, just a mattress on the floor for parents Lupe and Ismael and baby Jose. But all of this was preferable to the poverty they had left behind.

“It was many years ago that Jose walked into an American classroom for the first time," Lupe said. “And every day, I stood at the big gate outside the elementary school that divided me from my son. I never left that gate until he was released from school. That was okay because Jose was in an American school and another one of my dreams had come true. But every day, I stood at the gate, not speaking a word of English and knowing no one."

The principal of Meyler Elementary School invited her in, and there the seed was planted for the birth of Meyler Adult and Family Learning Center. Lupe was so involved in the program that she became known as the mother of family literacy at Meyler, a school involved with the Toyota Family Literacy Program.

Now grown up, the oldest son Jose graduated from Cal State University, Long Beach. He speaks several languages, including Japanese. Younger son Diego, who was in the National Honor Society at his high school, will start college this fall and major in architecture.

“As you can imagine, Ismael and I are so very proud of our boys," Lupe says. “We will always remember and be grateful for the big gate of the world that opened to us at Meyler and to others who followed our family's pioneering spirit.

We now own our own home with our own garage across the street from Meyler School, and we are grateful to be near enough to be of service to the school and our community."