Eagle Pass, TX is the only incorporated community in Maverick County. Spanish is the primary language for 90% of its residents. This small county has a steep school dropout rate and finding tutors is difficult.
In May 1987, Mr. Eugene Botelho was asked to reorganize the Eagle Pass Literacy Council. Before he arrived, the literacy council had only three tutors, none of whom were certified. These three non-certified tutors held English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) classes two evenings per week for almost 60 Hispanic students. By September of that year, Mr. Botelho had recruited and put to work 12 trained tutors.
Mr. Botelho found it difficult to keep trained tutors. In the summer of 1996, three of the six certified volunteers moved and two advanced students found jobs. Only Mr. Botelho remained to tutor and do office work. Though he is more than 80 years old with cancer, he manages to volunteer more than 200 hours a month to literacy efforts. During 1997, he tutored 2,796 students in individual, group and family unit classes.
Since June 1997, 327 people have applied for class, but only a third of that number can be accommodated. Students range from six to 87 years of age with scholastic backgrounds that range from no formal schooling to professionals with degrees from foreign countries.
Many of his students have gone on to colleges or universities to get their degrees. Former students keep in touch by visiting or writing from other states and countries.
People apply to Mr. Botelho's program with dreams of a better life and an education that they will cherish and pass on to their children. From Mr. Botelho, they get a dose of encouragement and praise while bettering their reading and writing skills.