By Matthew E. Milliken
Oct. 24, 2014
Around the beginning of 2012, I saw in a flyer in a Durham, N.C., coffee shop. The shop was almost certainly Bean Traders, the Ninth Street establishment that has since been renamed Market Street.
That’s not important — what’s important is that the flyer was for the Durham Literacy Center, which was seeking volunteers to work as adult literacy tutors. I signed up for an orientation session, which I followed with a two-day training session with about a dozen other newbie tutors at the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics.
I was initially matched with a student who was an ex-con. He lived somewhere in northern Durham County, and his trip to the center’s adult literacy classrooms — which at the time were situated in a church auxiliary building — took an hour or more of bus travel.
At our second meeting, I gave my student five dollars. That was the last I saw of him; apparently, he got a job that prevented him from taking lessons.
Soon after that, the center matched me with another man — a Durham native, then in his late 40s, whom I’ll call T. We’ve worked together ever since March 2012, with some interruptions for holidays, travel and other things that happen.