10 Years of Adult Education
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.
If you know some of the history and wish to share, please contact us.