Before Rick stepped through the doors of Project Read in early 2014, life was at a low. He and his wife lived in poverty in the same old apartment they had been in for ten years, barely surviving on Rick’s social security checks.

He had struggled with a mental illness most of his life, but it was not diagnosed until he was nineteen years old. Because of this difficulty, Rick made it through high school without acquiring the basic reading comprehension and writing skills he needed to land a decent job.

“I wanted to get help,” says Rick, who was determined to improve his and his family’s quality of life. ”I just didn’t know where to find it. I kind of stumbled around trying to find a place that could help me with reading.”

That is when Abiltiy 1st, an organization promoting independence for people with disabilities, sent him to Project Read, where he met his first one-on-one tutor. Rick is first to admit his progress has been slow, but every day he is getting better and understanding more. He believes having his own tutor has sped up the learning process. “It’s great to have someone to ask questions to and to explain the answers,” he says.

Pulling from his creative side and his interest in science fiction, Rick has even started writing short stories. He has written two, both about alien visitors, and has more ideas in the works. One day he hopes to write a novel.

These new writing skills, he says, have also helped him on a practical level: he can write a better resume and make more understandable notes and memos with fewer grammatical errors. Thanks to these new skills—and to his tutor for passing along information about the opportunity—Rick applied for and landed a new job, now working as a sales rep and product demonstrator at Costco. “I really enjoy my new job,” says Rick. “I get to talk to people. It really puts me out of my comfort zone.”

Quality of life for Rick has skyrocketed. He and his wife have moved into a nice new condominium and are in the process of buying it. The confidence Rick developed while better understanding the rules of English has helped him conquer a staggering stutter he has had most of his life, and gave him the strength to try new things. Recently he has joined Toastmasters International, a community speech-making group that focuses on developing communication and leadership skills among its members by providing opportunities to deliver planned and impromptu speeches. Rick has delivered twenty-one so far.

Rick’s next goal is to find an even better job. But for now, he is grateful for how far he has come. “Learning about English has helped a lot. I got a job, we got a condo we’re paying for, and life is good.”