Eastern Michigan University Graduate Student Wins Dollar General Literacy Foundation’s ‘I Can’ Essay Contest

GOODLETTSVILLE, Tenn. (December 14, 2011)
– Eastern Michigan University graduate student Andy Gowman’s compelling essay about overcoming obstacles took the top prize in the Dollar General Literacy Foundation’s ‘I Can’ essay contest. Gowman received a $50,000 education grant and trip to Nashville to receive his award.

“I could not believe that I was selected as the grand prize winner,” said Gowman. “My jaw dropped and my heart skipped a beat. This grant has made it possible for me to focus more on improving my teaching skills to benefit children and less on financial survival when graduating.”

Gowman plans to use the grant money to pay off student loans that are accumulating interest, and save the rest for future academic pursuits.

Gowman, now a 4.0 GPA student studying to become a special education teacher, once struggled with illiteracy and learning disabilities. According to Gowman’s award winning essay, he struggled to read and write as a young student. In the fifth grade, Gowman was placed in special education classes where he received personalized instruction.

“When words finally started coming together for me in the fifth grade, it was like the sun had finally risen on my horizon and lifted the darkness from my eyes,” wrote Gowman in his essay. “I commit my future career to serving students in any capacity I can so that they, too, can live in a bright and literate world, ripe with opportunity.”

Having personal experience with illiteracy has given him the unique ability to relate to students and their struggles. “When I see a child struggling with a subject, I can’t help seeing myself at their age,” said Gowman. “I remember my life when I could not read. It was a frustrating and confusing place.”

Gowman’s essay was chosen from more than 6,000 submissions in the ‘I Can’ essay contest, which was sponsored by Kimberly-Clark, Unilever, Sun Products and Reckitt Benckiser. Essays were judged based on their creativity, quality and relevance to the theme of pursuing education.

Supporting education and literacy has been a key initiative for Dollar General since the company was founded, and this commitment to education was the inspiration behind the ‘I Can’ essay contest.

About Dollar General

Dollar General is a leading discount retailer with more than 9,800 neighborhood stores in 38 states. Dollar General stores provide convenience and value to customers by offering consumable basic items such as food, snacks, health and beauty aids and cleaning supplies, as well as basic apparel, house wares and seasonal items at everyday low prices. The company has a longstanding tradition of supporting literacy and education. Since its inception in 1993, the Dollar General Literacy Foundation has awarded more than $61.7 million in grants to nonprofit organizations, helping more than 3.7 million individuals take their first steps toward literacy, a general education diploma or English proficiency. To learn more about Dollar General, visit www.dollargeneral.com.

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Tawn Earnest



Emily Weiss