Reading Nation
From Struggle to Success: Three Student Stories That Inspire

Struggles and success come in all shapes and sizes. Kaylynn, a student from California, Borum, a refugee from Cambodia, and Jorvorskie, a football player in the NFL, , all have something in common. They struggled with reading, but they went on to become winners in the annual HMH 180 Awards. They learned to have a growth mindset and had the perseverance to overcome obstacles in school and improve their reading skills. 


Borum came to the U.S. from Cambodia in September 2012 when he was 14. He and his family lived in poverty and fear. "I knew that school would not make my life different than [my parents'], so I did not take school seriously in Cambodia," he says. When Borum immigrated to the U.S., he was the only student from Cambodia in his school, and no one spoke his language. This was a significant hurtle to overcome, but he was motivated to learn to speak English very quickly so that he could communicate with other students in his new country.


However, reading was a struggle. Borum started out with a Reading Inventory score of zero. He was then enrolled in READ 180, and his score grew by leaps over time with hard work. It was with his determination to succeed that changed things for him. As his reading ability improved, he set a goal to go to college and always had that goal in sight. Now, Borum has been accepted into multiple four-year universities, including the University of California. "I'm so happy that READ 180 and the Language Institute gave me the opportunity to make my American dream a reality." 


Kaylynn Jones had another personal challenge to overcome. She was diagnosed with diabetes when she was six years old and is learning to administer her own insulin shots now at the young age of 11. She was very behind in reading and her school supported her by enrolling her in a READ 180 classroom and by working with a safety buddy, Jocelyn (who is also in READ 180). They read and write together and challenge each other to excel beyond their predicted growth.


Kaylynn says, "I used to have a fixed mindset about reading, because I didn't like reading. It was really hard for me. But this year, we're learning about a growth mindset. It's where you work hard to persevere and you'll achieve your goals; your efforts will pay off. My best friend, Jocelyn helped me and told me to read more books." Kaylynn and Jocelyn support each other when they stumble on vocabulary words, and they figure out the meaning together to keep improving. Kaylynn's goal is to graduate from high school and college. She wants to go to UC Davis and become a veterinarian.


Jorvorskie Lane, who is now an NFL player, had his own set of challenges when he was growing up. He was raised by his grandparents. They showed him a lot of love, but he did not grow up surrounded by books. He excelled at sports, but he struggled in school with reading. Football was easy for him and people told him it was his ticket to college.  The thing that stood in his way was his low reading scores; he had to improve his grades or he would not get into college despite his excellent athletic abilities. He saw his future slipping away when he heard this.


His teacher, Betty Lewing, was a big influence and encouraged him to move into the READ 180 program. Like Borum and Kaylynn, he held his goal in sight and worked hard to learn to read. Jorvorskie says, "I focused. I learned. I read. I saw I could improve. I found my real ticket. I went to college," he said. Today Jorvorskie Lane is a professional football player.


The truth about success is that it doesn't come easy. It takes hard work, practice, and perseverance to see something through. One of the most important things a struggling student can do is to go from having a fixed mindset and the belief that they will never improve to having a growth mindset. With a growth mindset they rise up to the challenge. They work hard until they can get to the next level, and that's exactly what each of these students did to move on to success in reading and in other areas in life. 

  • You don't get Borum's full bio. He actually started in System 44 his first year. He states that the "first time" he took the Reading Inventory he got a BR, but was placed into Read 180 after 1 year of System 44. The Language Institute, a program at Borum's high school, continually monitors student progress to move students up when they are ready. Borum is currently attending UC Davis and is studying engineering. Great motivational story. Watch his video on Youtube.

    I recently reviewed the entrance criteria for System 44 and Read 180. Why was Borum placed in Read 180 with a Reading Inventory score of zero?