Students honor achievements at literacy banquet
Eleven adult literacy students celebrated their education, communication skills and growing confidence at a banquet on Thursday.
In Pennsylvania, around 13 percent of adults lack basic literacy – the ability to read, write, and comprehend – according to the PA Department of Education. Students in the Bradford-Wyoming County Literacy Program refuse to settle for illiteracy by taking the hardest step: asking for help.
Tristan Dunn, one of the program’s newest students, said the program gives him the support he needs to succeed.
“I’ve only been in the program for about two months now, and so far it’s been wonderful. Everyone’s been great – amazing help. Everyone’s been…really nice. They’ve helped me come a lot farther from what I was,” said Dunn.
Dunn is studying for his GED, which he plans to take in January. Students can take English as a second language (ESL), health literacy, and emotional literacy classes from volunteer tutors. These courses help students advocate for themselves in their daily lives, said Program Director Sarah Fowler while explaining health literacy.
“This particular student is working on kind of understanding what it means to go to the doctor’s,” said Fowler. “Because, you go to the doctor’s and no one understands what they’re saying ever, right? That happens to all of us every day! So, she’s working toward her goals of trying to understand what they’re saying and what they’re meaning, and kind of how to navigate that part of life.”
While the organization focuses on improving students’ foundational skills, its classes often go much deeper. The program’s highest attended course is emotional literacy – offered to jail inmates. Students learn how to identify and cope with emotions alongside other incarcerated people, said Fowler.
“And that’s going to help them in the long run, right? So, they’ll be able to process these emotions. And they’ll be able to get jobs without exploding and [will be able to] deal with family stuff. And it decreases reincarceration [rates,]” said Fowler.
Since starting in April, over 122 students have gone to Fowler’s emotional literacy classes. Currently, that class is only offered in Bradford County Jail, however, efforts are being made to expand services to Wyoming County Jail.
Gerardo Reyes started working with the program as an emotional literacy tutor. Now its assistant instructor, Reyes joined the program because he wanted to help students grow as people.
“It’s really entertaining for me. It’s really satisfying to see people achieve their goals, even if they’re really small, because I think sometimes people lose focus from the overall goals to the small goals that actually get them there,” said Reyes.
Those incremental improvements mean everything to educational success, said Reyes. He talked about tutoring one of his students in story recall and summarization – in which the student ended up surprising him.
“The more you practice it, the better you become at it. But once I give him just a few pointers of what to do if [he] starts stuttering or if he doesn’t understand a word [his confidence improves]. He actually just read through [out loud] an entire article, and I just – I wasn’t expecting it and he wasn’t expecting it,” said Reyes.
Like Reyes, Linda Klipple is amazed by what she has gotten out of working with the program. She started working as a tutor to give her retirement purpose.
“It’s awesome. Like, you feel like you’ve accomplished something. Y’know, volunteering is a wonderful thing,” said Klipple.
The program is always looking for additional tutors and provides training to newcomers, including sit-ins with more experienced tutors’ classes. A fundraiser for the program is scheduled for early next year where visitors can pick and pot their own plant.