OCEANSIDE, Calif. (KGTV) -- It can be easy to take the ability to read for granted, but there's nothing easy about admitting you can't read, especially for adults. Just ask Gary Swimpson.
"I have a 7-year-old grandson that can read better than me," he says, "it hurts. I'm 61 years old, I'm supposed to be reading to him, but I can't let that get me down. I have to keep pushing forward."
Pushing forward is Gary's mantra. He exudes positivity, but it wasn't always that way.
"As far as my background, where I come from, 'the hood' and all that, you know I made a lot of bad choices coming up and so I'm trying to do the right thing in life for the first time in my life."
He says the hardest part of his journey has been having the strength to continue pushing himself to do it.
"When you never read growing up and now you're in your fifties or sixties and you try it, it's a challenge."
When Gary moved from Los Angeles to Oceanside, he decided it was time for a fresh start, beginning about a year and a half ago with the Oceanside READS Learning Center.
Chelsea Genack Eggli, the literacy coordinator for Oceanside Public Library, said, "It takes a lot of courage and it takes a lot of strength to go back to school when somebody is older in life," she says.
Before the pandemic, literacy tutors met with adult learners in person, one-on-one. Now they meet via Zoom.
"He was having a hard time seeing his growth. I saw it because when he came he wasn't reading at all, and then he read a chapter book," says Chelsea.
Gary says, "It made me just feel so good," when he saw the numbers on an assessment showing his progress.
Now, not only is Gary reading, he's also writing poetry for a contest --- an ode to Oceanside.
When asked what he'd like to say to others who could benefit from the program, Gary says, "Well, we have always heard that it's never too late right? It's how much you believe in yourself."
He goes on to say, "There's always a chance to get your life together as long as you're breathing. It worked for me and I'm really grateful, and anybody can do it. It's just how much you want it."
Gary says he draws strength from his faith. His goal is to get his GED. Oceanside READS includes many resources for individuals and families and it's free.
For more information just visit https://bit.ly/OsideREADS.