CLEVELAND — As Seeds of Literacy celebrates its 25th anniversary this year of working to break the cycle of poverty through education, a mother and son have united to work with the nonprofit to get their GED together.

What You Need To Know

  • According to the Department of Education, people with a high school diploma earn 33% more over the course of a lifetime than those without one

  • Research funded by the National Institute of Health concluded that a mother's reading skill is the greatest factor in determining her child's academic success, even more than factors like where you live or family income
  • According to Seeds of Literacy, 23% of Cleveland adults age 25 and older do not have a high school or GED credential

  • Seeds of Literacy is one of more than 30 organizations partnered with Cleveland Reads citywide reading challenge: The goal is for the city to read one million books together in 2023

“It makes me feel like if my mom can do it, I can do it too," Xavier Long said.

His mother, Roberta Jordan, sat beside him at Seeds of Literacy on West 25th Street. The mother and son teamed up to finish their high school equivalence credentials together and are optimistic. 

“I’m actually confident that I’m going to wrap it up this time," Jordan said. “I want to be an RN or an LPN, and in order for me to do that, I need my GED.”

As for Long, he’s considering joining the service, which requires a GED as well.

“Because the greatest people have to go through great obstacles to be who they are,” he said.

Many challenges can get in the way of education. Seeds of Literacy works with adults to overcome those obstacles. Jordan said being a young mother was a big part of what got in the way of completing her high school education.

“All of it, life, kids, work… I became a parent of a very young age,” Jordan said. “That's part of the reason, just life in general, struggling, everything.”

Because of various challenges in life, Jordan has worked toward finishing her GED off and on for about six years, but she is very excited about finishing this time.

“This has been a struggle for me going back and forth,” she said. “(But) My kids are older now. So I think, Well, I'm not gonna say I think… I know; I feel like this time is going to be better for me, especially since I got my son with me now.”

Some challenges to completing education are more common than others.

Bonnie Entler, the Seeds of Literacy President and CEO, said transportation and child care are two of the largest barriers their students share with them.

“Seeing someone grasping a new concept or learning something…and the excitement is what has really kept me here for 20 years,” Entler said. “I don't know if I would have that courage, but I have great admiration for them and that they do.”

Seeds of Literacy is a nonprofit organization founded by the Sisters of the Congregation of St. Joseph. Seeds has been educating the Cleveland community since 1997.

Entler is an expert on education deficits in the community and said the need in the city of Cleveland is enormous. Entler said there's a 66% illiteracy rate in the city and that in the county as a whole, it's at more than 40%.

“We serve students at all academic levels," Entler said. "So, students who are just learning how to read, through students who are about ready to earn their high school equivalency, we are always in need of volunteer tutors. Our model allows students to work at their own pace at their own academic level. So we need volunteers constantly.”  

According to Seeds of Literacy, 23% of Cleveland adults age 25 and older do not have a high school diploma or GED credential, but the nonprofit has features that make overcoming these obstacles to education more successful.

“Students really gravitate towards our flexibility," Entler said. "We have a morning, afternoon, evening session, and students can come whenever they want. They’re never scheduled. We know they're adults and have other things going on. So students really like having that flexibility and really empowering them in their own learning.”

Besides flexibility, tutoring has been a big success.

“And they have a tutor for you, and you get that one-on-one," Jordan said. "I love it."

Long said there's always a tutor who can keep taking students to the next level.

“So, you can just keep elevating here, and I like it," Long said. "I like that. It's like you don't have a lot of things that bound you here at all.” 

Long said they treat you like you're normal here and that he feels like he learns more here than at an actual school. 

Jordan encouraged people not to give up.

“Every time something comes up, I constantly come back because I love this place," Jordan said. "It's a great place to be.”

Although Seeds of Literacy has a $2 million operating budget, they have to raise every year. Entler said the nonprofit does not have any guaranteed funding and is always looking for in-kind donations.