On March 8, 2014 Literacy Volunteers spoke at the United Way of the Adirondack’s annual appreciation dinner. As a United Way Partner, Literacy Volunteers and the adult learners we support benefit directly from the campaign funds raised each and every year. Adult learners like Mia, who is from Mexico, but is now a permanent resident in Essex County. By interviewing her, assessing her English skills, and matching her with a professional trained volunteer tutor, we give her the opportunity to reach her personal goal of learning how to speak, read, write, and communicate in English.
Funding from the United Way ensures that our effective and proven adult literacy programs continue to changes lives of residents in the North Country. Residents like Russ, who dropped out of high school in 10th grade, took the GED, and passed everything except for the writing portion. He knew he had re-take this portion when he found out the GED would be changing in January of 2014. He and his tutor worked diligently to improve his writing, especially organizing his thoughts, putting them on paper, and editing. When he took the exam again in October, he had passed the writing section, and to our surprise, his scores exceeded all other GED categories including math, science, and social studies.
Our literacy programs lead to opportunities- opportunities for qualified and trained inmates at local correctional facilities who provide small-group tutoring to other inmates whose reading and math scores are below a 5th grade reading level. As one inmate tutor put it, “ I can shed some of prison’s emotional burden by finding a purpose- something to be passionate about and provide structure to my days… it’s challenging work but group learning stimulates a cooperative atmosphere where knowledge thrives”.
Literacy is crucial to building strong communities. Without literacy, adults must follow others, wait for answers, and hope for opportunities. Literacy leads- it leads to employment, independence, and opportunities. It is the foundation of education, and when adults read, his or her children read. When families read, our communities become active and stronger. In 2013, we provided programs to more than 140 adult learners, we trained more than 40 volunteers to become tutors, and 67% of our students showed academic improvement by at least one grade level. Support from the United Way is vital in helping us sustain and continually advance our adult literacy programs, and would not be where we are today without them.