Join us throughout 2018 as we celebrate Chatham Literacy’s 10 year anniversary!
Over the next twelve months, Chatham Literacy will be celebrating the 10 Year Anniversary of our organization. Over the past ten years, and even prior, there have been efforts to address the literacy of the Chatham County Community.
Every Monday, we will be posting a short highlight of Chatham Literacy, as it expanded its efforts in assisting the community. We hope you will join us on our 10-year journey of enhancing knowledge.
You’ll want to like us on Facebook, if you haven’t already, so you’ll receive an alert of our “Memory Monday” weekly post. If you know some of the history and wish to share, please contact us.
The Original Chatham Literacy
Before Chatham Literacy, there was – Chatham Literacy: The Chatham Literacy of today is celebrating the past ten years under its current organization. However, there did exist a Chatham Literacy that was formulated almost 20 years prior. Around the late 1980s, community members in and around Siler City created the first Chatham Literacy organization. The organization was officially incorporated as a 501 (C) (3) in October of 1988. The original four Directors were Susan Jabbusch, John Bergmann, Joy Bergmann, and Ruth Andrew.
The purpose of the organization was to provide free reading and writing instruction, and to provide tutor services at local schools. It appears that the approach was one of “friends helping neighbors.”
If you know any additional history about Chatham Literacy, and wish to share, please contact us.
A Second Start
Last week we introduced you to the original Chatham Literacy. By December 2006, this organization had reached the end of its life. Coincidentally, there was a second similar effort beginning to evolve. While serving as a poll worker, Bonnie Bechard, noticed a large number of folks who struggled to read the ballot. Bonnie was surprised to find that the 2000 Census indicated that 21% of adults over 25 years of age read at a fourth grade level or less (functionally illiterate).
With the encouragement of Will Brooks, who worked with Orange County Literacy, Bonnie began in earnest to create an organization.
At the beginning of 2007, Bonnie contacted Karen Allen Vaca, who was at the time Provost at Central Carolina Community College (CCCC) and currently a Board Member. Karen put Bonnie in touch with Judy Herndon at CCCC. Bonnie and Judy visited with Orange County Literacy to learn of their organization and operations. The next step was to bring together a group of interested participants. Not a simple feat.
The First Step
In early 2007, Bonnie Bechard began to solicit interest parties, contacting Friends of the Library, contacts on her email lists, and so forth. This spurred the interest of Brenda Rogers (former Vice President of the NC Community College System), who pulled in Mary Alexion, who possessed a business background and had been a tutor with Orange County Literacy. By July 2007, a Steering Committee was put in place and a business plan began to take shape.
One of the initial steps was to seek Incorporation as a non-profit 501 (C) (3). In investigating this process with the NC Secretary of State’s office, Mary Alexiondiscovered that a non-profit, Chatham Literacy, already existed within the County. Mary contacted the last person of record, Elaine Frye. Elaine, the last tutor to remain with the original organization, helped to arrange for the adoption of the original Articles of Incorporation under the newly formed Chatham Literacy organization. Although we are celebrating our 10th Anniversary, as an organization of record we are thirty years of incorporation and we continue the work that the visionaries of the organization started in 1988.
A Board is Born
Chatham Literacy’s first Board of Directors was comprised of: Mary Alexion (Board President), Brenda Rogers (Board Vice-President), Bonnie Bechard (Acting Treasurer), Jennifer Gillis(Secretary), Liz Carey, Beverly Hanly, Jeff Hartigan, Sara Lambert.
There was quite a lot of work yet to accomplish before services could start. Board members got busy developing policies and procedures, bylaws, volunteer and student applications, and a volunteer agreement with expectations and responsibilities.
Galloway Ridge had just created the Galloway Ridge Charitable Fund and, with the help of Beverly Chapin, Chatham Literacy received $5,000 – our first grant. This start-up grant was earmarked to support the cost of a tutor training as well as educational materials for volunteer tutors and adult learners.
At this time, Chatham Literacy was still run completely by volunteers. In addition, these volunteers continued to build the program by strengthening partnerships within the community.
In early January of 2008, Chatham Literacy began the process of forming an alliance with Central Carolina Community College (CCCC). Through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), Chatham Literacy was charged with the recruitment, training, monitoring, and ongoing support of volunteer tutors. These volunteers would provide tutoring to adult learners, enrolled in CCCC’s program, who were identified by their instructors in need of one-on-one assistance in addition to class time.
CCCC would provide Chatham Literacy with facilities for meetings, training, and tutoring as needed. Furthermore, CCCC would provide referrals, and would work with Chatham Literacy to provide educational materials for students enrolled in the Adult Basic Education (ABE) and English for Speakers of Other Language (ESOL) programs. This provided a solid foundation and legitimacy for Chatham Literacy to move forward.
With the creation of the Board, initial funding, and the partnership with CCCC, Chatham Literacy’s focus turned towards community engagement and partnerships. This had to be a multi-pronged approach. First up, community awareness. A presentation, ‘Advancing literacy one person at a time’, was created and shared with over 20 community and government groups, plus many more individuals. Statistics were presented: 22% of Chatham County adults were reading at a fourth grade level or below; of the people who struggled to read and write, 70% had no full or part time job, 43% lived in poverty, and 17% received food stamps; and many were at risk.
In addition to canvassing the County, thanks to Bonnie Bechard, our website, www.chathamliteracy.org was created. It became, as it is today, a tool for outreach and awareness, referrals, and a repository of information for use by tutors. Through these efforts, additional grants were garnered from Chatham County, $7,500, and the United Way, $2,500.
Learning to Teach (Tutor Training)
Through the combined adult literacy experience on the board, the first tutor training program was created. Volunteers were asked to donate 2 – 4 hours each week, to be paired with one or more adult learners. As it is now, the training was free to participants. The initial Proposal for Tutor Training was fairly rigorous. It included a three hour introduction to Chatham Literacy, the adult learner, learning differences, and exploring diversity. Additional sessions included listening & speaking, speech, working with text, comprehension, oral reading, and lesson preparation, among others. Tutors were also provided opportunities for hands-on-training, participant presentations, and assessment.
Once the twelve-hour session was successfully completed, the volunteer tutors were ready to be assigned adult learners. In 2008, records indicate that Chatham Literacy trained 12 tutors in Adult Basic Education (ABE) and 15 in English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL). A pretty good start!
At that time, as is now, community awareness and support were critical in the literacy mission. In 2008, support began to grow, once the needs were identified and presented to the community and government officials. There was momentum, and there were challenges.
Success of the Chatham Literacy organization would be dependent upon the ability to identify students, tutors, and locations in which to teach. The needs in and around Siler City were high, while almost all of the volunteer resources and potential volunteer pool were located in the north east part of the County. Student/tutor matching was, and remains, difficult. Concerted efforts were begun to seek tutors who lived in Siler City while depending on the flexibility of tutors to drive from North Chatham to Siler City to tutor.
At the time, meeting space was extremely scarce. Most libraries in the County did not have private space where tutoring could take place. Creative ways to meet these logistical challenges have helped dampen the impact of this lack of space. Today, it remains a bit of a challenge, but a challenge that is being addressed through the offering of free space from local entities.
Transportation and child care were also identified as challenges, challenges that are as relevant and difficult today as 9 years ago.
Meet One of Our Tutors
One of Chatham Literacy’s first tutors was Jo Drake, who began volunteering in early 2009.
Jo still actively tutors today, and also serves on the organization’s Program Committee. It was an interest in how people learn to read, plus the desire to work with adult learners that first attracted Jo to Chatham Literacy.
Jo Drake spent the majority of her career working as a teacher in elementary and pre-school. She spent seventeen of those years working with the Friends School and then the Duke School for Children. Around the age of 40, Jo wanted to do something different, though. She took on various roles; as a florist, working in a dress shop, and employed as an office manager, among other ventures.
But the lure of teaching always remained with Jo. After retirement, she spent time working as a nanny for friends. She also started volunteering with an after-school program at St. Julia’s, helping children with their school work. It was at St. Julia’s where Jo began to work with adults, tutoring English to some of the parents of the children attending the school.
When Jo first started as a tutor with Chatham Literacy, she tutored adult basic education (ABE), one-on-one, to an adult who had been referred by the courts to help improve his literacy. The two worked together for a couple of years, making good progress in learning to read.
For her next assignment, Jo helped Randy Diller, a lead instructor at Central Carolina Community College, with a GED class. For many years, Jo tutored in this capacity, helping many young adults with their reading and writing skills. Jo is now again teaching ABE, one-on-one, to adult learners in writing and reading.
With her efforts, Jo also learns. “From tutoring, I learn more than the students…tutoring is a great experience. It is interesting to gain a perspective on how people learn and how different we are in our learning styles. I also enjoy meeting the people with which I work. Sometimes it is work, but it is also fun! I would recommend Chatham Literacy to anyone who wants to help adults learn to read. It is a great volunteer experience.”
Meet one of our first students
One of Chatham Literacy’s first students was Monica C. Monica immigrated to Siler City from Colombia, bringing with her a degree in Business Administration and experience as a Business Consultant Coach. She loved her profession, but needed to learn English to be able to apply her skills here in the United States. In some respects, it was like starting over.
Monica enrolled at the Central Carolina Community College (CCCC) to learn English. She would drive to the various campuses to take classes to improve her skills. Being married with two children, the ability to balance her learning with her family life was important. So in 2010, Monica signed up with Chatham Literacy to take advantage of the customized tutoring the organization offers. Monica met weekly with her tutor at the old Pittsboro Library, and continued in the new library once it opened. Within a couple of years, Monica was reading in English at an eighth grade level. Now her reading proficiency is post twelfth grade.
Monica has been working as a babysitter for two years now. In her role she does a little bit of everything, sometimes assisting with accounting paperwork and other endeavors. This allows her to practice her English while applying her former skills. She also continues to meet weekly with her tutor, Ginny Pearce, to practice conversational English. Monica bonded early with Ginny at Chatham Literacy. This bond helped Monica stick with the program. And Monica has learned a great deal. She understands spoken English, and is comfortable in conversations. Although at times she may struggle to find a word or two, she is not afraid to try.
Over the years, Monica and her family applied and worked with Chatham Habitat to build and own their first home. Monica’s daughter graduated from Northwood High School and is currently enrolled at Meredith College. Her son is at Northwood High School. Now that her children are grown, she can focus more on herself. She is currently enrolled at CCCC, working on her GED. Although she does not require the certification, she is taking the classes for the pure enjoyment of knowledge. Monica is a lifelong learner.
“My English is much better because of the programs Chatham Literacy offers. My communication skills have improved and I am able to communicate more effectively with others,” Monica shared, “When I go places, I no longer depend on an interpreter when I seek assistance. Thank you Chatham Literacy!”
As a quick summary, ‘Chatham Literacy’ was first created in 1988 as a “friends helping neighbors” group. As the initial agency was fading and nearing the end of its cycle, a new Chatham Literacy was evolving. It picked up the torch, as it were, obtained the former organization’s non-profit 501(C)(3) status, and continued on with the literacy quest.
The new evolution began in 2007, taking a couple of years to identify needs, develop a plan, secure financial support and partnerships, train tutors, and seek adult learners for the program. Previous posts summarized these steps and introduced you to one of our original tutors and one of our first students.
In 2009, efforts began to take hold, and the organization began to grow, serving around 150 Chatham County residents. Chatham Literacy opened education centers in Siler City on Raleigh Street and in Pittsboro in the JOCCA (Joint Orange-Chatham Community Action) building.
Chatham Literacy was created as a community-based, volunteer-driven agency. To sustain essential support of the volunteer and student base, an executive director, and two part-time staff were hired. Bonnie Bechard, who was instrumental in reinvigorating Chatham Literacy in 2007, served as the interim-executive director during the board’s search for a permanent director. The board hired Roxann Schager as the first permanent executive director, Manuel Colorado-Reyes as the office manager and student coordinator, and Allen Bell as an instructor and tutor coordinator.
In addition to one-on-one tutoring, staff started classes in English for Speakers of Other Languages and Adult Basic Education. These new classes were held at the Siler City education center.
Growth continued for Chatham Literacy with the installation of a new board, including Joan Greene (president), along with new members Gloria Wilkins, and Siler City Mayor Charles Johnson (treasurer) – joining Joan was vice president Evelyn Ullman and Secretary Beverly Long Chapin on the executive committee. Rounding out the Board was Sara Lambert, Joe Hammond, and Armentha Davis.
…And the Phoenix has risen from the ashes
Chatham Literacy Services
The end of 2009 marked one year of service delivery for Chatham Literacy. One of the first offerings, in conjunction with the Central Carolina Community College, was GED tutoring. Group and one-on-one training in reading, writing, math, and English were provided to students in need of individualized attention.
At the same time, it was apparent that there was a void in Chatham, with regard to the growing immigrant workforce wanting to pursue U.S. citizenship. A critical (and final) component of the rigorous Federal U.S. naturalization process is the completion of the U.S. Citizenship Test.
Yet, there were no offerings in Chatham to help applicants prepare for the test. In response, executive director Roxann Schager, along with Bonnie Bechard, created a new Citizenship and Civics Education class – the first of its kind in Chatham County. Citizenship still remains unique to Chatham Literacy; no other literacy agency offers this type of program. The program was created to offer instruction in U.S. history, the reading and writing of specific words, assistance in completing the citizenship application, and preparation for the citizenship interview.
Can you pass? Try a sample citizenship test at:
So, the organization was off to a great start in 2009. And the organization celebrated! Chatham Literacy held its inaugural Tutor Appreciation dinner in October of that year. Twenty nine tutors were honored at the event. Special recognition was given to four tutors who had been with Chatham Literacy for more than one year: Mary Alexion, Cherie Ernest, Shirley McLaughlin, and Elizabeth Tate.
By the end of 2009, Chatham Literacy had over 150 individuals in its programs, most matched with its 55 tutor volunteers, and a few awaiting in the tutoring pipeline. Demand was growing. Arthur Carlson Charitable Fund, Chatham County, Dollar General Literacy Fund, Galloway Ridge Charitable Fund, Galloway Ridge Woodworkers, Herman Goldman Foundation, United Way of Chatham County, Walmart, and Women of Fearrington all successfully invested in this inaugural year of service delivery. We thank them, and the over 50 individual contributors, for having faith in the initial efforts of Chatham Literacy. Money well invested in Chatham County!
The Chatham Literacy Luncheon
A new decade, 2010, and Chatham Literacy was picking up momentum. In April of that year, Chatham Literacy held its first major awareness/fundraising event – a literacy luncheon – held at the Governors Club. Nearly 200 people came to listen to three amazing award-winning Southern writers, Doris Betts, Lee Smith, and Randall Kenan discuss the influences and inspiration behind their writings. The event raised over $10,000, and established a solid link between adult learning and literacy.
Doris Betts had been a long-time Chatham Literacy supporter, having served on the board of directors, as an adult literacy tutor, and as a member of its advisory board. At that time, the renowned author had written six novels and three collections of short stories. She was a three-time winner of the Sir Walter Raleigh award for fiction, and winner of the Southern Book Award for Souls Raised from the Dead. Her short story, The Ugliest Pilgrim, was adapted to a film that won an Academy Award.
Lee Smith, at that time was working on her 11th novel, Mr. Darcy Meets the Blue-Eyed Stranger. Other novels included Agate Hill, set in this area, and The Last Girls, which won the Southern Book Critics Circle Award. She also received an Academy Award in Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Ms. Smith graced us a second time by being the guest author of last year’s Spring for Literacy Luncheon.
Randall Kenan, was the author of several books, including A Visitation of Spirits¸ and Let the Dead Bury Their Dead, a collection of short stories. He had centered his fiction on what it is like to be gay and black in the rural South. Mr. Kenan had won several awards, including the John Dos Passos Prize for Literature and the North Carolina Award for Literature.
You have an opportunity this month, in 2018, to participate in a similar event, with yet another well-known author: Clyde Edgerton. The event will be from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Thursday, April 19, at the Chatham County Agriculture & Conference Center. Mr. Edgerton is an excellent and entertaining speaker. He plans to read a short story (which is also the first chapter of a novel-in-progress), discuss its genesis, and maybe even sing a couple of songs. We have another treat for you – D.G. Martin, host of NC Bookwatch, who will introduce Mr. Edgerton. We hope you can join us!
Creating an Advisory Board
In 2010, the Board of Directors of Chatham Literacy created an Advisory Board to help promote literacy in Chatham County. The intent of this new board was to help network the activities of Chatham Literacy within the community, and to provide a voice to the efforts of the organization. A more appropriate name for the board might have been ‘Advocacy Board’, since the leaders on this Board were very influential in the community. Ten community leaders were appointed to this Board, which included:
Doris Betts of Pittsboro, a nationally acclaimed author and a UNC-Chapel Hill distinguished professor emerita; Bill Brower of Pittsboro, chairman of the Chatham County Board of Health and retired administrator from the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Public Health; Tim Cunnup, mayor of Goldston; Beverly Long Chapin of Pittsboro, UNC-Chapel Hill professor emerita; Representative Joe Hackney, North Carolina speaker of the House; Ed Holmes, former North Carolina legislator and retired attorney; Howard Lee, executive director of the NC Education Cabinet, former Chapel Hill mayor and state senator; Arturo Velasquez, Pittsboro attorney; Randy Voller, mayor of Pittsboro; and Betty Wilson of Pittsboro, former Chatham County commissioner, and United Way Volunteer of the Year.
This was a pretty illustrious list of advocates. Plus, with Siler City Mayor Charles Johnson serving on the Board of Directors as Treasurer, all three municipality mayors were directly engaged with Chatham Literacy. Quite impressive!
Our Second Chatham Literacy Executive Director and New Board Members
In an earlier post, we noted the creation of the new board, the growth of the organization, and the search for a new Executive Director. At that time, the board had hired Roxann Schager as the first permanent executive director. In 2010, Susan Bridgers of Pittsboro became the next executive director. Susan had previously served as director of affiliate relations with a Cary online marketing company, and brought more than 20 years of management and communication experience in internet business development, documentary film production, newspaper and broadcast operations, movie advertising, and promotion.
Susan also was an experienced tutor, working with adult learners in Chatham County, and previously in Northern Virginia. She held a bachelor’s degree in English and communications and was working on her masters at the time.
Susan said Chatham Literacy’s efforts to meet the County’s need for adult education and English for speakers of other languages (ESOL) were continuing to develop and grow. “Everyone benefits when adults can earn more, increase the tax base, and become larger contributors to our social well-being,” she had said at her introduction. “With the support of the Board and our backers, and the time given by tutors and other volunteers, we accomplish progress daily. I am gratified to be part of this significant effort.”
Also in 2010, three community members joined the Chatham Literacy Board of Directors. Don Lazarus of Chapel Hill was a longtime educator and brought with him more than 30 years of experience as a teacher and administrator at elementary, middle school and college levels, Lazarus specialized in reading instruction, curriculum development, testing and assessment. Reverend Donna Banks became senior pastor at Evergreen United Methodist Church in 2009 after serving three years as associate pastor at Christ United Methodist Church in Chapel Hill. Before becoming a minister, Banks worked for a chemical company for 16 years. Fran Mears was a longtime journalist and helped with publicity for Chatham Literacy for more than a year before joining the Board. Before moving to NC, Mears was managing editor in charge of Gannett Co. Inc.’s news bureau in Washington. She had also worked for the Associated Press for 18 years.
Partnering with Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs)
In 2011, Chatham Literacy began a partnership with Carolina Meadows and Galloway Ridge. Employees with limited English skills at the CCRC were introduced and recruited to Chatham Literacy’s programming. Residents received tutor training from Chatham Literacy and were then connected with employees from their CCRC so that on-site tutoring could happen during the employees lunch break.
Instrumental to the success of this model were the commitment of CCRC management and identification and commitment of a Chatham Literacy CCRC Resident Liaison. Many thanks to Lee Laidlaw at Galloway Ridge, who has since passed away and we still miss, and to Lynn Ogden at Carolina Meadows who helped pioneer this Liaison concept.
To assist with student recruitment, we introduced a Lunch and Learn program to engage housekeeping staff at both CCRCs in four 30-minute “mini trainings” on time sensitive topics, such as understanding your child’s report card, highway safety, managing money and shopping. The sessions were conducted during the employees’ lunch break. This was a way to bring employees together, introduce them to information that was meaningful in their lives, and then introduce them to Chatham Literacy and the opportunity to tutor onsite and during their work-day.
The partnership between residents (tutors) and employees (adult learners) was born, which to this day has created special bonds within the Carolina Meadows Community and the Galloway Ridge Community. Another success story!
The Tutoring Experience According to Eunice Collins
Embracing Civic Engagement
In 2012-13, twenty five Chatham Literacy students accepted that invitation, becoming U.S. Citizens!
Students involved in Chatham Literacy citizenship classes produced 25 new U.S. Citizens in 2012-13. Twenty-two of them voted for the first time in the presidential election, and two volunteered at election headquarters for a political party. The three citizenship classes held in Siler City and northern Chatham County served a total of 62 students. They learned how the government works, American history, and the voting processes.
After completing citizenship class, 13 of the 25 new Citizens enrolled in English as a Second Language classes to reach for new goals. They joined students from several Latin American countries, as well as Togo, Burma, and China. Fifty-one adults participated in group and individual ESL sessions over the fiscal year. Nine improved their literacy by three grade levels, three moved on to Central Carolina Community College to study for their high school equivalency (GED) certification, and three obtained new jobs. Students who took the classes also reported that they were using the library more and becoming involved at their children’s schools and in Hispanic civic groups. This is how community engagement is nurtured.
In 2012-13, Chatham Literacy and Central Carolina Community College teamed up to give GED students a solid pathway to success. Students must have at least a 9th grade skill level to take the General Educational Development (GED) test for a high school equivalency credential. The college’s GED teachers refer students who need extra assistance to Chatham Literacy tutors for individualized instruction in reading, writing, and math.
“Without the one-on-one tutoring, many of the students could be lost, frustrated, and ultimately leave the program,” said Randy Diller, an instructor at the college’s Pittsboro campus.
Instead, he said, many excel — like tutor Ruth Nicholson’s (shown above with Michael Y. (left) and Miguel M.) “undefeated string” of seven consecutive students who have passed the GED’s writing section. Twenty students obtained their GED diplomas through this collaborative program in 2012-13.
One student’s story …
“My GED experience at CCCC was better than my high school experience by far.
Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would pass all my tests, let alone in the seven months that it took me. I would not have been able to get there without the most wonderful and outstanding teacher that Mr. (Randy) Diller is along with his amazing tutors. Craig (Fairbrother) was instrumental with math to where you wanted to learn, and Jo (Drake) and Miss Ruth (Nicholson) were always there with their words of wisdom and advice.”
Whether a Volunteer Tutor or Student, Everybody learns, everybody wins!
Volunteers on the instructor and student sides of a tutor team agree: Tutoring is a great way to learn and to make life more fulfilling. Here, student Adela D. and tutor Jacquie K. share their perspectives.
ADELA: My tutoring started casually at my grandson’s soccer game when my daughter heard about the program. I got more confident using my English using this program because practice is one-on-one, and we just talked and talked. Last August I took a test that showed my improvement over the last year and I received a computer.
I cannot believe this is a reality. This computer is helping me with information for the goats, for my family and for my job search. I have more opportunity to express myself. Thank you!
JACQUIE: Chatham Literacy has provided a most supportive and satisfying volunteer opportunity. Tutor Training was a great overview of what to expect, how to prepare for each session and how to relate to students. Adela and I have been meeting in the beautiful Pittsboro library for a year, 1 ½ hours on two afternoons each week. Adela works hard on her own time too. She has made great progress because she works so determinedly. Every student has different goals and a different level of learning. Tutors must adjust to that, but it is also important to just communicate and understand.
We do drills and exercises, but we also talk a lot, putting vocabulary and grammar into use. We developed a rapport and have become good friends, visiting each other’s homes and sharing stories. We also volunteer together for school functions. Adela has made her way to being a part of our community, working in English at the job she landed this fall and negotiating her way through the daily life of Chatham County. It has been a great joy to watch her life bloom and expand with her grasp of English.
NOTE: Tutors don’t need teaching experience or foreign-language skills. Chatham Literacy provides training at no cost.
Interested? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
BB&T Partners with Chatham Literacy to Tackle Computer Literacy
BB&T in Pittsboro chose Chatham Literacy for its 2014 Lighthouse Project, the bank’s annual effort to make a positive difference in the communities it serves. BB&T provided $1,000 for tutoring supplies and its staff volunteered to teach a computer and internet skills workshop for Chatham Literacy’s adult learners.
BB&T also generously agreed to include clients from Chatham Literacy’s service partner, Circles Chatham, in a second workshop. Altogether, 34 people participated in the classes, which Tiffany Steinbrunner, Lana Bradley, Pamela Kovach, Brandy Everwine, Penny Stallings, and Courtney Thomas made possible. Tiffany, the branch’s market leader, said the project was a great opportunity for the BB&T staff. “It was our pleasure to work with an amazing organization and to help others in our community achieve a lifelong goal,” she said.
This project was very successful in strengthening Chatham Literacy’s integration of computing, a life skill, into its learning programs.
Chatham Literacy Partners for Learning Flexibility
Many adult learners struggle with time, specifically being able to balance a work schedule with a class schedule, while managing family obligations. This is where Chatham Literacy can be of assistance, providing flexible scheduling, along with focused tutoring, to achieve balancing while learning. Here is an example of success in this approach, from 2014.
“My name is Christian D. I’m originally from The Gambia. I enrolled in the GED Program at Central Carolina Community College in 2009. It was the greatest investment I have ever made. It was a start in achieving my “American Dream.” Due to my heavy work schedule and class commitment, it was a very rough start. The teachers encouraged me every step of the way. I was given a personal tutor to help me in the areas I was struggling with.
“The tutor gave me lessons outside classes and it helped boost my grades and confidence in myself. I finally was able to pass the GED exam. Currently, I’m taking my prerequisites for the Nursing Program, which I hope to enter in 2015, and I’m working as a nursing assistant.
“Lao-Tzu once stated that ‘a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.’ My first step was getting enrolled in the GED program, and I hope to continue and achieve my dream.”
Assimilation. Acceptance. Participation. Voice.
Those are the primary goals of students taking Chatham Literacy’s citizenship classes. In fiscal year 2014-15, Ten of our students became U.S. citizens, totaling 60 new U.S. citizens since 2011.
In addition to taking weekly classes that prepare them for the citizenship test, students also are learning the importance of being informed voters and the variety of ways they can effectively engage in their communities. “As a result of the class, they feel empowered,” said Executive Director Vicki Newell. “They know they have a voice and a right to use that voice. It’s life-changing.”
English Classes Helping Students Achieve Their Dreams.
Opportunities for two Siler City women have expanded dramatically since they began taking Chatham Literacy’s English as a Second Language classes
“I study English because it is important to me to help my children with their homework and to speak the language of my new country,” said Maria P., a mother of two who moved here from Honduras in 2005. “In the past three years I have gotten my GED, and my sons and I have become U.S. citizens.”
Alicia R., originally from Mexico, has lived in Siler City for 20 years. She and her husband have three sons, the oldest of whom is now in the U.S. Marine Corps. Alicia earned her high school equivalency certificate in 2013 and started a housekeeping business with a friend in 2014.
“We started with two customers. After working hard, we have 13 homes now,” she said.
“English class has built my confidence in myself. I used to be too shy to speak English, but now I am much braver,” Alicia said. “My goal is to speak correctly and easily with my current customers – and the new ones I hope to get.”
Alicia and Maria both are giving back to Chatham Literacy by sharing their stories and successes in grant and public awareness presentations. And both remain focused on improving their fluency through bi-weekly classes with longtime tutor Eunice Collins.
Making a Dream Come True.
Ramona Salas-Sanchez is extremely proud that she officially became a U.S. citizen on August 12, 2016, after studying for three years in Chatham Literacy’s Citizenship Program. Her journey began 16 years ago, when she left Mexico with her husband and children and came to the United States. They settled in Siler City, where she took care of the family while her husband often worked two jobs to make ends meet.
The citizenship class that Ramona took met once a week for two hours at First United Methodist Church in Siler City. The curriculum was very detailed and required student dedication and determination. “I am so proud of achieving my citizenship,” said Ramona. “I feel different now. I feel important. I also feel very honored to be a U.S. citizen.”
Ramona’s new goal is to improve her English. She is enrolled in Chatham Literacy’s ESL program. “All of my tutors have treated me with respect,” said Ramona. “They have such patience!”
Literacy Gives You a Voice [Tales from 2016-17].
Chatham Literacy’s citizenship program offers preparation classes for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services naturalization test for those desiring to become a U.S. citizen.
It is uncommon for an entire family to rally behind each other to achieve a major goal. This was the case for five members of one family who enlisted Chatham Literacy to help them obtain their U.S. Citizenship. It started with Agustin M. and Maria V. who emigrated to the U.S. from Guanajuato Mexico with their daughter Elena. The parents obtained their citizenship in 2015, with Elena receiving hers a year later. Elena’s husband, Alejandro V., who emigrated to the U.S. from Tamaulipas Mexico, just became a U.S. citizen this year, along with his sister, Estela M.
Elena and Alejandro are raising their four children, with Elena as a stay-home mom, and Alejandro working as a cabinet maker. Becoming U.S. Citizens helps them to remain together as a family, and to be active participants in their adopted country.
If you know some of the history and wish to share, please contact us.