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Now a poet, a boy in Jamaica could barely read until a teacher-in-training came along

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Time now for My Unsung Hero. It's our series from the team at Hidden Brain that tells the stories of people whose kindness left a lasting impression on someone else. Today's story comes from Juleus Ghunta. Ghunta is a published children's author, an award-winning poet. But growing up in rural Jamaica, he could barely read. His single mother did not have enough money to send him to school. By the time he did attend, he couldn't catch up. Then, when he was about 12, a young teacher in training arrived at his school.

JULEUS GHUNTA: The teacher was incredibly kind to me. She was patient. She was creative. She did not ask anything of me except that I work hard and believe in myself, and my reading improved significantly.

Years later, after I graduated university, I returned to the school to ask the principal and teachers who were there while I was studying if they could give me her full name and tell me where to find her, and no one could tell me. I would love to meet her again, to tell her thanks for believing in me in a way that, for me, felt extremely strange and unusual because adults in my life back then were so inconsistent and, in some instances, were extremely unkind.

It was a very foreign experience for me to be with someone who believed in me as much as she did. She had left me with the gift of literacy, and with a deeper appreciation of my personhood and value as a human being.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

GHUNTA: I would love for her to see the significant impact that she has made on my life and the ways in which I have carried this memory of her, the hope, the light with me and how it continues to be a source of joy even now in my adult life.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

KELLY: Juleus Ghunta lives in Fort McMurray, Canada. He's working on his first full-length collection of poetry. To find more stories like this, you can listen to the My Unsung Hero podcast. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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