When a teacher from the Literacy Council of Tyler called Blanca Albrran about the possibility of going to college after she’d taken her GED, the idea scared her, she said.
“I wanted my kids to have a mom they could be proud of,” she said. “My daughter will be a senior in high school this year, and I think she sees me, and it makes her realize how important education is.”
The organization helped Mrs. Albrran and helps thousands of other East Texas residents with college prep, GED classes, English as a Second Language and basic literacy each year. The nonprofit will have its annual Literacy Council of Tyler Spelling Bee fundraiser on Tuesday, and this year features more teams than ever.
“We have 17 teams this year,” executive director Nancy Crawford said. “Also, J.B. Smith will be emcee this year. He’s looking forward to it.”
According to the Literacy Council website, 51 percent of adults in Texas read below the eighth-grade reading level and 23 percent read below the fifth-grade level.
The spelling bee features teams with representatives from area businesses competing to be the last one standing in what is one of the nonprofit’s biggest annual events. Organizers are expecting to raise about $48,000 from the 500 expected to attend.
“We’re very lucky that this community really values education,” Mrs. Crawford said. “We try to make it fun, and there is that competitive element to it.”
Representatives from Tyler Junior College — Robin Insalaco, Elise Mullinix and Marian Jackson — have won the past two years.
They are letting other representatives take their spot for the university this year.
“They’re worn out,” Mrs. Crawford said with a laugh. “So I think this year will be extra exciting.”
“It was hard — it was a lot of work and very intense,” she said with a laugh. “It was actually harder than my college courses.”
Swain wasn’t surprised by her comments.
“I make no bones about that,” he said with a chuckle.
Mrs. Albrran dropped out of high school her senior year and spent the next 15 years working for her father and at a local grocery store as a cake decorator.
“I was tired,” she said. “I think I was probably burned out.”
She wanted a change and always was interested in medical work, she said.
Years later, Swain still checks up on her to make sure she’s still pursuing education.
“I touch base with every student — there are about 100 now,” he said. “I’ve got some unbelievable stories. It’s life-changing for these students. It’s one of the greatest things I’ve ever been involved with.”
This year’s spelling bee will be from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Green Acres Baptist Church CrossWalk Center. Call 903-533-0330 for more information.