Take Sam (he’s a real person, but that’s not his real name), a teenager who was sent unwillingly to Trident Literacy by DSS and was not happy to be back in “school.” He was resistant to learning and just wanted to earn his release.

But a funny thing happens when people who desperately need to improve their skills come together to learn. They form a bond, both with their volunteer teachers and with each other. They support each other and feed off each other’s little victories.

Sam was not immune to those bonds. He particularly connected with Mike and Gretchen (also real, also not real names) who are old enough to be his parents, or even grandparents. The trio has been working hard four mornings a week to master the multiplication of complex fractions.

One day these three students remained after class intent on conquering a set of problems. Three hours later, they were still at it. They helped each other and established a friendly competition. When they hit a snag they sought help from staff. Now they have mastered this difficult skill and can bask in their accomplishment as they continue to expand their knowledge.

Of course, Sam has learned a lot more than multiplying fractions. He’s grown up a bit and stepped off the road to failure and onto the road to success.