Just Passing Through--Sukie’s Tale

Maria Sukie Marquez is a student at the North Hollywood Adult Learning Center, which is run by the L.A. Unified School District. As a child she did homework, passed tests and got promoted from grade to grade for more than nine years even though she couldn’t read. Marquez, 22, lives in Sylmar.

I didn’t like school, and the teachers didn’t pay attention to me. They said, “Oh, she looks smart, she just doesn’t want to do the work.” They thought I was just lazy and they wouldn’t help me. I overheard it in the background with some teachers when I was in junior high.

So I said, “OK, I’ll tell them I’m not smart.” I told all my teachers I didn’t know how to read. They wouldn’t pay attention to me, they thought that I didn’t want to do my work.

I would sit way in the back where they won’t ask me any questions or tell me to read this. Nobody would notice me there, and I wouldn’t raise up my hand ‘cause I was embarrassed.


Lots of times I talked back to the teachers. I go, “Well, you don’t listen to me, why should I listen to you guys?” They wouldn’t pay attention to that either. So I would get suspended for talking back to the teachers.

I thought the teacher would pay attention to the ones that only want to learn. I told them I wanted to learn, but they didn’t pay attention to me.

On the tests I would just guess. They give you red and yellow and blue and green, you have to write little circles on them. I would just say eenie, meenie, minie, moe, and I was right.

They passed me, and they flunked my sister. She had to go back to ninth grade and I went to 10th grade. She knew how to read.


I wanted somebody there with me to have patience. None of the teachers would have patience. They would just sit there at their desks and do paper work, write their little notes, send them to other teachers. They would write a bunch of little lines, I can’t read those little lines.

I dropped from 10th grade. I was 16, 17. I wanted to stay there, but I couldn’t because I didn’t know how to read. I started working with my mom. I did packing, filing, collating, cutting negatives in Valencia.

April 4th of last year, I took my sister to the Learning Center and she helped me sign the papers and then I said: “If this year doesn’t go right, if I don’t learn something, I’m just going to drop out and I’m not going to go to school no more.”

It’s just a miracle I guess. Now, I’m very happy. I just think to myself that I’ll be able to read just like anybody else.


In junior high they wouldn’t even look. These teachers, they look, and they get near you. She sits right next to me and she’s like, “OK, Sukie, we’re going to read something, read to me.”

She takes the fear away from me, ‘cause I get scared. And then when I’m reading to her, I’m reading and reading, she says, “OK, you can read.” I don’t get nervous anymore in class.

Before, I wouldn’t bother looking at signs. I would just pass it and I would ask my sister, “What does it say there?” And she would tell me. Most of the time, I’ve been with my sister and I would never go by myself. And now I look at ‘em, and now I see ‘em and I read ‘em, and I feel happy.

I’ve been going there for a year, and I can write a letter and my sister corrects it. And before, I couldn’t do that. I would see my sister write, or read letters, and I wouldn’t even bother opening my mail. I feel happy because I can read a little bit of them. I know what it is, why they’re sending it to me.


I just want to be a teacher, ‘cause they helped me. I want to help people who was just like me. I have a lot of patience so I would pay attention to them. In junior high they didn’t pay attention and I felt bad.

So I want to be a teacher if I ever learn how to read. It’s hard to do what you want to do when you don’t know how to read.