Many of our students realize that reading, speaking and understanding English is important to many facets of their lives. For them, coming to Indy Reads to build their language skills is about changing their lives in ways that help their children grow and their families thrive. This month’s IndyGo Student of the Month, Dawt Sung, came to Indy Reads for just that reason.
Dawt is an ELL student from Myanmar, formerly known as Burma. She grew up on a family farm as the youngest of nine siblings. She attended school as a young child and learned most lessons in her native language. She began learning how to read English and understand a few words and phrases, but enough to fully understand or speak in English.
During Dawt’s youth, Myanmar was in the midst of a 50-year-long violent military rule, the effects of which still linger today. “You know my country is very poor and it is a little dangerous,” Dawt said.
Corruption and violence is still prevalent in Myanmar. As a result, the country’s education system lacks resources and investment. According to UNESCO figures, the average adult in Myanmar has received only 2.8 years of schooling, and only 25 percent of eligible students enroll in secondary education. Today, only 75.6% of the population over 15 years of age are considered literate.
Myanmar’s history and present are riddled with colonization, civil war, and military and political unrest. Due to ethnic and religious persecution, many Burmese people are faced with the tough decision to stay or flee to another country. Dawt and her family fled the country in the mid 2000s, and flew to Malaysia where they applied for refugee status.
In 2011, Dawt came to Indianapolis as a refugee at the age of 21, joining the largest population of Burmese people in the country. There are approximately 20,000 Burmese people on the southside of Indianapolis, most of which came to the United States as refugees. Soon after their arrival, Dawt’s husband began working while she stayed home taking care of their children, a ten-year-old and 6-month-old.
“My goal is for my kid, and for me, and for my family.”
After settling into life in the United States, Dawt began to look for education options for herself. She knew that being able to speak and read English better was the first step to help her family, but she struggled to find a program that fit her needs.
“Before, I want to go to school but no one could care for my baby. So I just stay at home alone for a long time,” she said.
Stuck with very few options, Dawt discovered the Excel Center on Indy’s southside. It was there she found classes with childcare options and was introduced to Indy Reads.
Dawt joined the Indy Reads Community Classroom program in the fall of 2018 and has not missed one class. She was shy at first, but grows new confidence in her skills every day.
Her teacher, Cindy Reinhard states, “Dawt is one of the most dedicated students that I teach. Not only does she have perfect attendance but she is almost always the first student to arrive to class. The volunteers and I have watched her develop confidence in her speaking abilities. She is kind and very helpful to the other students.”
Dawt’s dedication to her education and her love of learning are apparent. “I love it because for me it’s a lot of new words and I get to speak more than I knew before,” Dawt says. “Everyday we talking to English, we learning grammar and some stories and some news. And they are teaching me this everyday and we are learning more and more.”
Dawt wants to help her family navigate their new life in Indianapolis and someday earn her High School Equivalency, or HSE. Increasing her English skills will allow her to improve her education and the education of her children. “My goal is for my kid, and for me, and for my family,” she says.
Indy Reads classrooms create the space for students like Dawt to develop their skills to benefit themselves, their families, and the community at large. Help us reach more families in Central Indiana by supporting our community classroom programs:
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Indy Reads is proud to partner with IndyGo to support students in the Community Classrooms program. Watch for more student stories in each month’s newsletter, and catch Routes 19, 38, or 39 to visit Indy Reads at the Central Library, or Routes 11 or 21 to visit Indy Reads Books! All route and trip information is available at indygo.net.