Tags: Basic Adult Literacy, community, Family Learning, networking, Registration, students, suggestions, Volunteer, volunteers
The weather’s starting to change, that means it’s time to get back in the classroom!
I’m happy to report we have confirmed class times and locations with all our classroom community partners and the new schedules are ready for the ESOL Learning Centers and Family Learning Program. Click the Google Map below to see our classroom locations or where neighboring English Language services are:
Registration will be September 14th through 22nd and we’ll be advertising in the walk-able areas immediately around each class site but we encourage you to help our advertising campaign. How can you help? Ask your neighborhood grocer, library, community center or place of worship if you can post a copy of our schedule on their community news or bulletin space. You can find a link to each schedule here:
Thank you for all your support!
-Erin Finn, Director of Classroom Programs
Tags: community, Speaker Series, student stories
Meeting with other ESOL professionals never fails to spark great ideas. During the Virginia Literacy Leadership Conference (VLLC), the AmeriCorps members attended a seminar presented by Brooke Hammond from Hogar Immigrant Services on Hogar’s Personal Empowerment Speaker Series. Hogar’s speaker series brings experts from different fields into the classroom to speak to the students about topics such as civil rights, banking, health literacy, and immigration. We thought it was a great idea to bring resources directly to the students, and we decided to start our own speaker series at the LCNV.
After surveying the students about topics of interest, we came up with a list of potential speakers. We decided to have the lectures on Tuesdays, in the half hour before both our morning and evening classes. So far on the schedule, we have had Jennifer Faddon from Fairfax County Public Schools speak about Advanced English Classes and Robert Rutland-Brown from Just Neighbors speak about immigration. Upcoming speakers include Kate Singleton, a social worker who will speak about health literacy, Sarah Moore from the Beacon Workforce Literacy Program who will speak about finding a job, and Daniel Quinn from Hogar Immigrant Services who will speak about civil rights.
So far we have met with a lot of interest from the students. On average, about twenty students attend both the morning and evening lectures. We hope to keep responding to students’ needs outside of the classroom by continuing the speaker series in the fall and beyond.
Thank you to Hogar Immigrant Services for their excellent idea, and thank you to the speakers who have made the Empowering Speaker Series a reality.
To view the Empowering Speaker Series pamphlet, click on this link: LCNV Speaker Series Flyer Summer ’11. If you or someone you know is interested in participating in the Speaker Series, please email Serife Turkol at email@example.com
-Kerrin Epstein, Lead Teacher and AmeriCorps Member
Tags: Inspiration, students
Last time I blogged, I told you about one of my all-time favorite books, Mountains Beyond Mountains, and how re-reading it last month brought about some much-needed introspection in regards to my post-AmeriCorps immediate future (disclaimer: if one more person asks what my plans are for the fall, [unless your intent is to offer me a job or to make my graduate school decision for me] you may force me to respond with something to the effect of underwater basket weaving. Kidding. Kind of).
Anyways, in keeping with the pop-culture recommendation of my previous post, I thought I’d tell you about a movie I recently saw with my cousin that I loved and think you will too. The First Grader is based on the true story of an 84-year-old man from Kenya named Maruge (Oliver Litondo), who spent his youth fighting for his people’s independence. Maruge is of a tribe of people who were almost singular among Kenyans in their efforts to withstand colonial oppression, to the extent that they were interned in detention camps where they were met with horrific persecution.
When Kenya gains its independence, the government establishes a program of free, universal education. While not explicitly delineated, this free education is intended to be for Kenya’s youth. On the registration day, throngs of parents and children flock to this little country school to sign up, but when everything is said and done, there stands Maruge, this 84-year-old man who wants to register for school too.
He’s turned away, but returns day after day until teacher Jane Obinchu (Naomie Harris), who is so moved by his determination to learn how to read (you’ll have to watch to learn why), accepts him into her first grade classroom. As the story progresses, there are intermittent episodes of Maruge’s neighbors’ outrage at an 84-year-old going back to first grade, this selfsame man who spent his own youth being tortured for his country peoples’ freedom; as well as the heartwarming, archetypal exchanges between the aged and youth.
Viewers can love this movie from so many different angles, but as an adult educator (who counts among her students an impressive handful who are well into their eighties), this movie struck a special chord in my heart.
I hope that you get a chance to see and become inspired by The First Grader as well! (FYI: I saw the movie a couple weeks back at Bethesda Row Cinema, so if you’re interested I think that you’ll have to hunt down a theater like Bethesda Row that plays movies of the more “artsy/independent” persuasion). Enjoy!
-Alicia Nieves, Lead Teacher and AmeriCorps Member
Tags: Computer Literacy, students, workshops
Last winter a group of IBM employees from the DC metro area gave up a Saturday afternoon to come to our computer lab at the James Lee Center and work one-on-one with our tutoring and classroom students, helping them learn how to use the computer or improve their computer skills. These wonderful volunteers will be returning on Saturday, June 25 from 1:00-3:00 for a repeat performance. In addition to providing the types of assistance they offered last time (e.g., instruction in using a mouse, setting up an e-mail account, and surfing the web) they have expanded their repertoire of offerings to include how to use Skype. This should be of high interest to a lot of our foreign–born students who would like to learn another way of communicating with their friends and relatives back home.
If you know any LCNV learners who might be interested, do encourage them to attend this free workshop. They’re welcome to bring interested friends and family members along. There are bound to be some Spanish speakers there, along with speakers of some other languages, who are fluent in English and can help translate. However, it would be helpful for students who speak very little English to bring their own translators with them.
This is a great opportunity, both for LCNV learners who were unable to make it to the previous workshop and for those who attended but would like to learn more. I’m really looking forward to the occasion. Last time it was great to see such a large turnout of our student population and to meet learners who were so intent on acquiring computer literacy skills and so grateful for the opportunity to do so. I’m sure it will be the same this time around.
-Elise Bruml, Director of Tutoring Programs
Tags: friends, student stories
While our number one priority is to increase our student’s literacy skills, there are certain other services that are as important and that we probably rarely think about. For example, in our classes students become friends. They build relationships that sometimes go beyond the classroom. Certainly this helps our students feel like they are part of a community and that they are not alone, that there are other people going through the same problems and trying to reach the same objectives.
In one of my classes three people that speak two different languages became friends, and this helped the classroom environment a lot. The two students from Pakistan became ill during the session, and so the student from Sudan would call, using the little English she knew, to find out how the other two students were doing. It takes a lot of courage to pick-up the phone and speak in a language you just started learning, but it also demonstrates how comfortable these students were with each other. I hope that these students continue to be friends and learn together.
-Jose Flores, Lead Teacher and AmeriCorps Member
Tags: Children's Books, graduation, lesson plans, Library
My Family Learning Program Crestwood Elementary class took a field trip to the Richard Byrd Library this spring. It was pouring rain. Icy rain has become traditional for our class library visit day. Sandy Freund, Richard Byrd Library Manager, welcomed us and showed us all around the library. She then read us a Lois Ehlert book! It is a bilingual book called Un Lazo a la Luna, Moon Rope in English. Sandy is bilingual, having grown up in Argentina, and I had asked her to read us a bilingual book to encourage our students to use the library with their children, especially during the summer. The reading went over very well, and there were many appreciative faces among our students. Four students received library cards – Elsa, Kathia, Zulma, and Teresa. All have kids who will benefit from coming to the library. Now all of our students have library cards!
After class, I met with volunteer teachers Marla and Judy to iron out some details about graduation and the next five classes. We will be having a spelling bee using words learned and used in class during the last semester. The spelling bee will be held during the first part of the graduation day class on May 25. We are going to give out a spelling list beforehand to all the students so they can practice spelling in English.
-Elizabeth Magee, LCNV Lead Teacher, Family Learning Program, Crestwood Elementary School
I went home to Chicago last week. It was awesome – here are just a couple of the highlights: a trip to Holland, MI to spend the day with my college roommates who I hadn’t seen since graduation, a trip to WI to visit my grandma, a surprise 50th birthday party for my dad, and last but not least, getting my mom a puppy for mother’s day! Despite the action-packed nature of this particular trip home, my visit was exactly what I needed. I don’t know about you, but for me, going home is always a centering experience; in the ‘busyness’ of this part of the country, my job, really just my whole life right now, I suppose I’m always a little in danger of losing sight of that center.
I’m always reading, and this trip wasn’t an exception: I work for a literacy organization, so I guess that should come as no surprise to anyone. I finished the closing sentences of Mountains Beyond Mountains just as the plane touched down at Dulles, Monday night. Reading Mountains back in college had been a worldview-altering experience, and as I was perusing the used book section of the local Goodwill (one of my all-time favorite haunts), I came across a copy and decided to pick it up again.
If you’ve never read Mountains Beyond Mountains, Tracy Kidder’s page-turning account of the life and work of the famous Doctor Paul Farmer, I cannot recommend it highly enough. I first read it near the end of my time in college, and for an idealistic 20-year-old, Paul Farmer gave a shape and a voice to a lot of the raw and unformed notions I had about how a life ought to be lived. If I recall correctly, I even cited this book in the personal statement segment of my AmeriCorps application as part of my motivation for applying.
In any case, the combination of the Midwest, college friends, family time, and a healthy dose of Paul Farmer were just what the doctor ordered (pun intended). One of the main reasons I decided to spend my first year out of college doing AmeriCorps was because I wanted to get some experience in non-profit service since I was thinking about graduate school for social work, and LCNV provided an awesome opportunity for hands-on experience doing something for someone else. This past year has more than solidified that desire, but when I was actually accepted to a graduate program a couple weeks back, everything was suddenly becoming a reality (so naturally I freaked out!)
In Mountains, Kidder writes: “Farmer taps into a universal anxiety…into what he calls ‘ambivalence,’ the often unacknowledged uneasiness that some of the fortunate feel about their place in the world, the thing he told me once he designed his life to avoid.” Regardless of whatever comes next for me, what a great example of ‘center’ I rediscovered as I re-read this book during my trip home.
In addition to Mountains Beyond Mountains (Tracy Kidder), I thought I’d leave you with a short sampling of books that have changed my life: The Brothers K (David James Duncan), Jayber Crow (Wendell Berry), and Travelling Mercies (Anne Lamott).
-Alicia Nieves, Lead Teacher and AmeriCorps Member
Tags: americorps partners, BEACON, thank you!
It’s hard to believe that another spring session has come to a close in our Learning Center classes! It zoomed by, with barely time to take a breath. Yet, as I look back at the session, I realize I did get a welcome breath of fresh air. How could I forget: our AmeriCorps trip to BEACON Literacy in Bristow, Virginia!
While it’s always good to reconnect with our fellow Northern Virginia literacy AmeriCorps crew, our adventure over at BEACON was a special treat for me. We had been invited to BEACON to celebrate our opportunity to participate in such an amazing service program, while simultaneously taking the time to thank the people who have made our experiences with AmeriCorps both possible and so positive.
As with many adventures involving cars, this particular adventure commenced with plan “Gas Saver”, consisting of an early morning rendezvous at the James Lee Community Center. After a brief grumble about whose car was “the road trip car”, we piled in and away we went. BEACON, here we come! We drove away from the greater DC area with the sun shining and the wind whipping through our open windows. I was surprised at how quickly things started to spread out (traffic, houses, buildings- you name it). It felt good from the get-go, this little adventure of ours. And, after some brief directional mishaps, we made it! We were able to reunite with Harman, Sarah, and Sabrina at last.
When we all convened, we were first led on a tour of the Monastery grounds and gardens. It was breathtaking! With over 100 acres of land, a spiritual labyrinth, and very impressive gardens, the Benedictine Monastery serves as the home of BEACON for Adult Literacy in Bristow. As we walked through the gardens and learned of the monastery’s history, I wished our stay was not so brief so we could get to know our welcoming hosts even more.
Some highlights of our adventure include a brief stint in a simple, but beautiful chapel, a celebratory, caterpillar-cake to accompany our family-style meal with some of the Benedictine Sisters and, most memorably, the goodie bags of appreciation. Each of us AmeriCorps members received a zip-lock bag filled with little symbols of the different roles we play in our organizations (think things like a jack, because we are a “jack-of-all-trades”) with a special, super-sized goodie bag for Susan, our resident superwoman, who works tirelessly to make sure the seven of us have our ducks in a row when it comes to all things AmeriCorps.
Even now, after living in Falls Church for the past eight months, the sheer quantity of individuals that live, work, and (most notably) drive around the greater DC area is staggering. Being wedged between Interstates 495, 66, and Route 267, sometimes I forget that there are places not so far away where being surrounded by nature is the norm. It was nice to get away, to feel the camaraderie with other people who have similar professional goals and struggles, and to smell some pretty flowers!
Thanks to Susan, BEACON, and the hospitality of the Benedictine Sisters, the Literacy Councils’ AmeriCorps of Northern Virginia finally got together for our much overdue reunion. What a great day. It really is amazing how much good a little bit of fresh air can do!
-Sara Venjohn, Lead Teacher and AmeriCorps Member
Tags: celebration, Children, community, family
April 30th is national Dia de los ninos/Dia de los libros also known as Children’s Day/Book Day. Celebrating its 15th year, Dia de los libros annually emphasizes the importance of books in the lives of children. In 1996, children’s author Pat Mora proposed linking Children’s Day (which began in 1925 and was designated as a day to bring attention to the importance and well-being of children) to children’s books. The Association for Library Service to Children is the national home of Día and REFORMA The National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish-Speaking is a founding partner. For more information about the celebration visit the American Library Association’s page.
-Carisa Pineda, Family Learning Specialist
Tags: health literacy, speakers, thank you!
The United States healthcare system is overwhelming and confusing, even for those who were born in the US and who speak perfect English; now just imagine how you would feel if you were sick and you couldn’t communicate with the people you needed to in order to get better.
For the past couple of weeks, LCNV has had the pleasure of welcoming Kate Singleton of Inova Fairfax Hospitals into our classrooms. Kate presented student-centered health literacy information at our class sites in Herndon, Lorton, Falls Church, Alexandria, and Springfield. Kate, a social worker by training, is now working under the auspices of a grant through Inova that allows her to give workshops to ESOL instructors and healthcare providers on how to meet the unique healthcare needs of the immigrant and refugee populations we serve in our classrooms. Kate is herself a former ESOL instructor, and through her experiences in the classroom, she discovered the great need for informing ESOL students of effective ways of navigating the US healthcare system. Kate also visits ESOL classrooms and through a wonderful series of multi-level friendly “picture stories” that she developed, she is able to illustrate some very important healthcare concepts that left our students feeling empowered and informed.
First, Kate talked to the students about emergency room visits in the US. In most cases, ER fees for uninsured patients in the US are thousands of dollars more expensive than what a similar visit would cost in our students’ native countries. People who are new to the US are unaware of these price differences and may make the costly mistake of going to the emergency room for a minor ailment such as the flu, when it would actually be in their best interests to visit one of the many free or sliding-scale clinics available to uninsured individuals in Northern Virginia.
Another major problem that Kate addressed in her presentations is the issue of uninsured people failing to get treatment when health problems are small due to the costliness of a doctor visit in the US. If small health problems are left untreated, a once minor issue has the potential of either landing the individual in the emergency room or of becoming a chronic condition, both of which are much more costly, not to mention dangerous, outcomes in the long run. Kate gave the students a packet of information on free and sliding-scale clinics in the Northern Virginia area, as well as information on facilities that provide mental health services and legal aide, plus lost-cost dental, vision, and hearing options for our students.
Two of the most important concepts that students walked away with were the following two questions that they now know to ask when they find themselves in need of medical services: “Can I have a translator, please?” and “Can I speak with a financial counselor, please?” The former refers to a law specifically designated to help people who are uncomfortable using English take control of their circumstances when speaking with the doctor. If a clinic or a hospital receives federal money, it is required by law to provide translation services to all patients, but the catch is that patients need to know to ask.
The second question refers to situations that many uninsured people find themselves in when they have medical emergencies: having to pay for extremely high emergency room bills. The students learned that while US emergency room visits can be much higher than in their native countries, they do have some options. But patients are once again the ones responsible for advocating for themselves and asking to speak with a financial counselor. A financial counselor can provide one of three options depending on the severity of a patient’s financial circumstances. Sometimes a discount can help alleviate a portion of the bill, other times a payment plan can spread the bill out over the course of a number of months, or in the most extreme cases a hospital can provide ‘charity’ in which the bill is waived.
LCNV has been incredibly lucky in establishing a connection with Kate Singleton because as an ESOL teacher, I often find myself in situations with my students where I am one of the only English-speaking people they know and trust. I am not a doctor or a lawyer or social worker, and I feel incredibly inadequate when I am presented with the very important questions students have that fall very far outside my knowledge base. During Kate’s presentations at my three class sites, I took a backseat position and was able to watch my students as they listened to and absorbed all of the important information Kate shared that I wouldn’t have been able to give them. Thank you so much, Kate!
-Alicia Nieves, Lead Teacher and AmeriCorps Member