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Mary Ellen Lyon, Ontario-Yates Literacy Volunteers

A student wanted to give his teacher a Golden Apple Award because he had just learned how to read- and he is 43 years old.
A student wanted to give his teacher a Golden Apple Award because he had just learned how to read- and he is 43 years old. 

Every Tuesday, BJ O'Grady and Mary Ellen Lyon meet in a quiet corner of the Bloomfield Public Library. Mary Ellen is a tutor with the Ontario-Yates Literacy Volunteers. After all these years, BJ is finally learning how to read and write. His family says he is a new man. 

"He feels whole. He feels like a whole person," his wife Kathryn said.

Imagine always holding a secret. It is estimated that seven percent of the population cannot read. BJ missed a lot. 

"I never got to write any love letters to my wife or growing up and being a kid; you know, science and stuff always was hard. You don't read, you can't pick up a book to read it. You know, it's very hard," he said.

BJ wrote in and nominated Mary Ellen- a way to say thank you for changing a life. 

"You know I think it's awful that some people fall through the cracks; and how can we get to them," she said.

"She's got this incredible heart and she's got a willingness to prepare for her tutoring sessions. She's always focused on BJ and his needs and interests," Donna Cotter said. "So she just makes the perfect tutor."

BJ has already achieved several goals. The first- reading a book to his daughter.

"I got four kids and to read to one of them out of the four of them, it felt really great; and I owe it all to her and my hard work," he said.

BJ is a changed man and no longer has a secret to hide. To learn more about the Ontario-Yates Literacy Volunteers, click here. 

You can also find literacy resources across the state. 
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