A “graduation” surprise party at a local park


Al is a sweet and hard-working student who enrolled in the AL program in late 2019 to study for his GED. Despite having mental health challenges, he has been able to juggle multiple obligations while working with us: attending classes in A-B Tech’s Transitional Studies program, working a part-time job, studying for the Language Arts portion of the GED, working closely with his peer support team, and learning to live as part of a larger community at his group home. 

Al’s group home went on lockdown in the spring of 2020, but he really wanted to keep studying. So we made an arrangement to keep him on track: Rebecca delivered worksheets to his group home mailbox and every week brought more. Al probably completed about 100 pages of grammar, spelling, and mechanics exercises. When the Literacy Council was ready to being online sessions and he was matched with a new tutor, he was more confident and focused and moved quickly through the textbook.  He has now moved up to the next literacy level and is working with a second tutor to prepare for the math GED test!

Al’s mental health challenges make it difficult for him to communicate about and understand abstract concepts, so seeing concrete indicators of his progress — finishing worksheets, completing more chapters in his text, scoring higher on his test, taking on a second GED subject — are points of great pride. 

Last week his peer support team threw him a surprise party at a local park. Because he has demonstrated growth, independence, and responsibility on so many levels, Al was able to “graduate” from his intensive peer support program. He was delighted. It was an emotional moment for all of us to help him celebrate his achievements: to be more self-sufficient; to be trusted and respected; to be loved and appreciated; and to know that all his hard work has been worth it. 



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ESOL: We have been able to increase the types of services we offer our students

As you may know, our new Outreach Director, Laura Bernhein, is also spending a few hours each week assisting Erin in the ESOL program. As a result of the added staff time, we have been able to increase the types of services we offer our students.

Ahead of the anticipated fee increase for naturalization applications, we helped several students and some of their family members fill out and submit their application forms. Laura also conferred with a schoolteacher alongside an LCBC student whose young daughter was having trouble getting connected with her online classroom and helped another LCBC student navigate a hospital billing system in order to get control of her bills.

We’re excited to grow the capacity of our program to continue fulfilling our primary mission – language teaching for personal empowerment – and also help to meet some of our students’ additional language-related needs.

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Pearl and Catherine, an Adult Literacy success story

We would love to share this success story from Rebecca Massey, the Adult Literacy Program director.


Rebecca sent this email to Pearl, one of her tutors:

Sorry again for the delay grading Catherine’s test. This time around we gave her a harder test (Level D) because the score on her last test (Level C) indicated that she was ready for that move upward. Typically, when students advance into a higher-level test, they backslide a few points and that’s all fine. However, Catherine scored 6 points higher on this test than the last one. 
And the biggest news is that she moved up to a whole new level of literacy! There are 6 levels of Adult Basic Education. She is now in Level 5. (See p. 7 here for a description of that level) Very few of our AL students are at that level. It’s a great accomplishment.
Please tell her congratulations!!!!!!!!!!!!! And you deserve at least half of the exclamation points in this email. Thank you SO MUCH for all your effort, insight, and devotion to her success. You guys are the best.”
And this was the tutor’s response: 
I am heartened to think you believe I’ve done a good job. I have made every effort to do that.  Onward and upward. You need not thank me for helping Catherine. She is a consistent joy. Positive, determined and funny. She was determined to fight through the fears and embarrassment of her earlier educational experiences to find her good ending. I am delighted to be along for the ride. No one deserves it more. 
Catherine was beside herself with joy when I called to give her the test results, and trust me, getting your note was also the highlight of my day. Sharing it with Catherine, Connie, and Jim [her daughter and son-in-law] superb. They are so proud of her. We all are. Most importantly, she is proud of herself. That is priceless! Pearl

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Adjusting the sails

An Update from our Executive Director, Cindy Threlkeld:

Yesterday I listened in on a virtual meeting that our ESOL Director, Erin, was facilitating with tutors to compare the pros and cons of using Zoom, Skype, and Google Hangout to continue lessons with their students. One described her first attempt to hold a virtual class that usually meets at Erwin Middle School with four parents: one each from Mexico and Belarus, and two from Ukraine. All logged in with either a phone or laptop, and by using the whiteboard feature on Zoom and referring to their workbooks, they carried on without a hitch.

Another tutor shared that her student doesn’t have access to a computer, but wants to continue to improve her writing. So the student writes out the lesson by hand, takes a photo of it with her phone, and texts it to the tutor. The tutor accesses the photo, enlarges it, and then calls the student to review her work.

And the stories are just as creative with tutors working with Rebecca in Adult Literacy and Youth Literacy. We will share their stories of both success and struggle in the weeks that come.

I am amazed and heartened by the resilience and determination of staff, tutors, and students to keep moving forward!


Note: We received this from a first-year tutor just before schools closed.

I trained with the Literacy Council in late summer of 2019. I was assigned to a 1st grade boy and started with some trepidation about how I would do as a tutor. Would I really make a difference? My student was a little shy at first, but that didn’t last, thanks to many of the fun games and aids I learned in training. I also learned more about The Avengers than I ever imagined! He gave ME homework—he asked that I learn all the Avengers’ names and super powers. I did OK. I tried to incorporate his love of The Avengers and other comic book/movie characters in our reading. 

How did it all turn out? 

I realized that just about anything I could accomplish with my student was making a difference. Sometimes he was too wound up to focus (kinesthetic games came in very handy), but we always got things done. His teacher reports his reading scores are improving and he is much more confident in class. 

Personally, my experience has been fantastic.  I learned a lot about myself (not just about The Avengers). I still have a lot to learn, and because every student I tutor in the future will be different, I can’t wait!


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