Tags: AmeriCorps, Basic Adult Literacy, New Staff, students, Volunteer, Writing
In honor of Ray Bradbury’s 91st birthday this week I decided to reread Fahrenheit 451. Rereading this book as an adult, I found myself thinking quite a bit about the work we do at LCNV. Arguably Bradbury’s best known work, Fahrenheit 451 is an eerie novel set in the near future in a society that outlaws books. Rather than fight fires, Bradbury’s firemen are charged with finding and destroying outlawed books, and all books are outlawed. Owners of these books are punished severely.
We can thank our lucky stars that Bradbury’s fictional world does not exist in northern Virginia. People are free to read what they like in books, magazines, newspapers or on the electronic device du jour. However, this isn’t the case for many people across the globe. Around the world women are routinely denied access to education and punished for trying to improve their lives and the lives of their families through education.
Lack of education and illiteracy is a problem in our own back yard as well, as evidenced by the many natural-born citizens who contact the literacy council every day. Regardless of where someone comes from, LCNV tries to help, because without the skills to read the many texts available to us, we are denying access to knowledge, just as though we were burning books. Bradbury’s hero comes to the realization that destroying knowledge is a terrible mistake and says, “We have everything we need to be happy, but we aren’t happy. Something’s missing. I looked around. The only think I positively knew was gone was the books I’d burned in ten or twelve years. So I thought books might help.”
Many LCNV students have full, happy lives. Many have exceptionally complicated lives with some of those complications being caused or exacerbated by their limited literacy skills. It can be overwhelming to try to help someone who is surrounded by difficulties that seem larger than life. Giving someone the tools they need to become fully literate provides access to the larger world and all of the services to which people are entitled. Denying access to literacy marginalizes people and limits opportunities to lead a full, productive and happy life. But, teach someone to read and there’s no telling what might happen. I have to agree with Bradbury, “books might help.”
-Molly Chilton, Tutoring Program Specialist
Tags: ESOL Tutoring, family, giving, student goals, student stories, students, volunteers, Writing
Our tutors are doing great work everyday, working toward their student’s goals. Through quarterly reports and correspondence, sometimes we get to share their joy. Please read below to share tutor, Marla Diamond’s, story about her students Jinsuk and Jongsoo:
“Jinsuk, Jongsoo’s wife, exploded with the news! She was so excited when we spoke she could hardly speak. Yet, she knew she was spoiling Jongsoo’s surprise of telling me first. But who can blame her? This has been a several-year quest. We’re all so proud and thrilled!
Jongsoo Lim, an LCNV student for the past two years, recently got a job as an electrician with Metro. This is an extraordinary accomplishment for him. He was trained as an electrician in Korea, and was able to pass the exam in the U.S. to get licensed as a Master Electrician. Yet he has struggled to find full-time employment, in part because of his limited English comprehension and conversational skills which hampers his success at job interviews. And, he has had difficulty learning electronics which has hindered him in passing exams that some employers, including Metro, require as a prerequisite to employment.
Nonetheless, Jongsoo was not to be deterred. He has spent most of his time since arriving in the U.S. four years ago studying English and trying to learn electronics on his own. All the while applying for whatever jobs he could find to apply his skills as an electrician. But, he also needed to support a family. So, he took part-time jobs (often several at the same time) regardless of whether his skills were required, to earn whatever he could.
In the two years we have studied together, Jongsoo has maintained a sense of humor and optimism that is to be respected and admired. He felt sure that one day his efforts would reward him and he was right! After three prior unsuccessful attempts to pass the exam with Metro, he finally passed. That, however, did not lead to an immediate job offer. He had to pass a practical exam, be interviewed, and fare well through reference checks; all of which generated significant anxiety for him and his family as getting this job was so critical. In the end, Jongsoo succeeded and he began his new job in mid-June.
His job with Metro is important in so many ways. He has a steady income and benefits that none of his part-time positions provided. His confidence in himself has soared. He has opportunities for promotion. Jongsoo is already looking forward to being able to take his family back to Korea next year. This will be their first visit since arriving in the U.S. in 2007. Notwithstanding the sacrifices Jongsoo made to get to this point, he had to endure yet one more during his first week on the job – he missed his son’s graduation from high school. Yet, he remains proud and happy and eager to do well and be an outstanding employee. His American dream fulfilled. ”
If you have a student success or challenge to share, please contact our program staff or comment below!
-Marla Diamond, ESLT Tutor
Tags: alumni, AmeriCorps, professional development, student stories, volunteers, Writing
Hi, I’m Natalie. I’m the Executive Assistant here at LCNV (I’m the first smile you see at the office or voice you hear onthe phone!) I’ll be managing the blog this fall. How exciting and new to me. Kerrin, our former New Media Manager, is off into the wide world with the rest of our AmeriCorps and I’m taking over until our new Communications Specialist, Ines can weigh in! It’s my first blog and its interesting so far. Normally I hear stories from student intakes and the phone, but now I also have the chance to share mine and the other staff’s experiences with you. I have learned so much these past months since I started last January. What I find amazing is the desire for people from all walks of life to learn english or improve their reading, writing speaking, and listening skills. It takes courage to do this. I can’t wait to hear your comments!
-Natalie Espinoza, Executive Assistant
Tags: announcement, Service, suggestions, teaching, teaching strategies, thank you!, volunteers
You can view a listing of everything our library has to offer including tapes and CDs! Each item is tagged with its call number and a variety of categories that might help you identify other similar resources. It does not show what books are checked out, but you can call (703-237-0866) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org) to verify.
2. Fairfax County Inter-library loan
If you live in FAirfax County, the library system has generously offered to let us send ships from Thomas Jefferson Library to other Fairfax County libraries. We can send books to you with this system, but you still have to drop them off here at the LCNVoffice for returns.
3. After Hours Drop-box
LCNV’s office hours are 9-5 Monday through Friday when most of the metro area is also busy working or commuting. However, to make book borrowing easier, you can return or pick up using our drop box outside the office! Call or email the librarians for instructions!
4. Giveaway materials
Every once and a while, a tutor or teacher cleans out their home libraries and donate to LCNV. Any redundant material, we leave out for volunteers as a giveaway. We just got several boxes from a former ESL teacher with great titles like Longman’s Grammar Series Focus on Grammar and Cambridge University’s Clear Speech. Feel free to stop by and see if there is anything of use for you.
I hope you’ll make use of these wonderful services and give us suggestions of books or services that might inprove our system!
-Katie Beckman, Program Assistant
Tags: Family Learning, thank you!
This FLP academic year was full of changes for me. Change, even when it’s positive, can be very stressful and I’d like to take this time to reflect on this past year and thank all of you who have been involved in the Family Learning Program. In July of last year I embarked on the adventure of parenthood. I left work on a Thursday afternoon, thinking my task list for Monday. Monday arrived and instead of tackling work tasks, I delivered a baby boy, Alexander. I didn’t return to the LCNV office until mid-October and during my maternity leave whatever was on my task list and other work-related items were long-forgotten. I returned to work having missed the intense back-to-school frenzy that I’d grown so accustomed to experiencing: a new group of AmeriCorps members arrived and were trained and FLP registrations happened. I can say with certainty that the Family Learning Program was different for me this year which meant it was probably different for others too. In addition to missing the beginning of our FLP “school year” I spent the remainder adapting and adjusting. Although I believe (at least I hope) that I provided appropriate support to the parents we serve prior to becoming one, now that I am a parent I can relate even more. Now that I have done my fair share settling back in, I hope this coming school year will be dedicated to program improvement and I am very much looking forward to it.
Thank you to everyone that supported me and the program this part year: Minta Trivette, for filling in for me during my maternity leave and doing such an amazing job; Erin Finn, for working closely with and guiding Minta; the lead FLP teachers, for their exceptional teaching and their flexibility (Elizabeth Magee, Serife Turkol, Sanem Cardin, Sheila Weiss); the children’s teachers (Beverly, Virginia, Nancy at Crestwood, Mirna, Nancy at Woodlawn, Josephine, Ysabel, and Shahida); the FLP volunteers, for their time and talent (Jessica, Marla, Jeff, Fred, Veronica, Judy, Vicki, Stephen, Maria, Kristen, Samantha, Judy, Amy) and a very special thank you to this year’s AmeriCorps members (Alicia, Jose, Kerrin and Sara) who all taught FLP classes, managed paperwork, participated in projects and did so in such a professional way. And thank you to anyone else who I may have left out.
-Carisa Pineda, Family Learning Specialist
Tags: New Staff, thank you!
Many of you may have read Serife Turkol’s recent post about transitioning from a lead teacher to her new position with the Literacy Council as the ESOL Learning Centers Specialist. We are very happy to welcome her in her new role. I would like to thank Serife for over four years of excellent teaching with the Family Learning Program, having served as the lead teacher at Herndon Fortnightly and at a former site, McNair Elementary School. Not only did she serve as a Family Learning lead teacher and ESOL Learning Centers lead teacher, but she also served as a volunteer trainer, test administrator, and in her first role at LCNV in 2006, as a class aide for a workforce literacy class. During these years Serife has been beloved by her students and has mentored numerous volunteer teachers. One of the volunteer teachers Serife has worked with over the past few years is Sanem Cardin who has taken on the role as lead teacher of the Herndon Fortnightly site.
-Carisa Pineda, Family Learning Specialist
Tags: Learning Centers, New Staff
As Learning Centers started to bring its spring term to a close and Family Learning classes went on a Spring Break, I was getting ready for a new transition in my life. Last week I started my new job at the office as an ESOL Learning Centers Specialist, resigning from my lead teacher position with the Council.
For me, it has always been hard to say “goodbye” to students at the end of sessions. But generally you know you will be there next time teaching again. This one was the hardest of all: I knew I wouldn’t be teaching four nights a week anymore. As we said our goodbyes, I asked my students to continue taking classes and practicing their English daily, and I promised to do my best to help developing programs that address and meet our students’ needs. I also knew that I will never forget what my students have taught me over these years.
As I spent my first week learning about my new job, I had great time among very enthusiastic, energetic and dedicated group of people working together to develop and support best educational programs to serve thousands of adults in the area. I have been very excited and proud to join the staff here at the Council.
-Serife Turkol, ESOL Learning Centers Specialist
Tags: donate, thank you!, volunteers
Watching the Federal Government struggling with budgeting challenges isn’t easy, but quite honestly it isn’t easy in any organization. This is the time of year when the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia is developing the fiscal year 2011- 2012 budget (July 1, 2011 – June 30, 2012), and we are making similar very difficult decisions. In a small non-profit educational organization, such as LCNV salaries are the largest part of the budget. Without the teachers, program support professionals, and administrative support, the organization would not function. Non-profit salaries are considerably lower than public and private sector salaries for similar positions, and yet we need to be competitive to attract qualified candidates who live in this Northern Virginia region. So, to keep expenses down, LCNV uses the support of AmeriCorps members, functions with a number of part-time positions, and supplements with volunteer office support as much as possible. Program books and materials are a necessary expense and LCNV will not sacrifice the number of books, the quality of the materials, or the variety necessary to meet the need s of the range of adult learners in our programs. This, too, is a large portion of our operating budget. Then there are the operational costs like telephones and technology, building maintenance, printing, supplies and equipment, mailing . . . items that need to be paid to successfully run an educational service, but seem to add up to too much too quickly. Where can we cut the budget?
Like the Federal Government, we also look at the revenue side. Where does the money come from? In the case of the LCNV, it is primarily fund-raising income. All of our grants, including state and local government funds are annual competitive grants, meaning every year we start from scratch raising necessary operational funds. There are no guarantees in fund-raising and often private foundations or corporate giving programs change their funding priorities, or in a difficult economy, cut back their grant awards. We do charge fees for volunteer training and fees for our adult learners (though scholarships are available for those in need), but added together those fees account for less than 5% of the operating budget. Creating the income side of the budget requires strategic guessing, taking risks, and having faith in the kindness of others.
How do we balance the growing needs of the organization, fairly compensate the small staff, make sure our educational programs are cutting edge and responsive to the needs of adults in our community, while depending upon revenue that’s based on strategic guessing? In some ways it’s a lot like the Federal Government: there is considerable discussion and compromise. For the most part, though, at LCNV we rely on the strength of the mission. We believe there is no better cause than giving the gift of reading to an adult. With the basic skills of reading, writing, speaking and understanding English, adults have the tools to launch a whole new future. The LCNV budgeting process is to manage the expenses as close to the edge as is fairly reasonable, and talk about the importance of the mission over and over and over until the money follows.
-Patti Donnelly, Executive Director
Tags: AmeriCorps, friends, fun
This week, I returned from a vacation to Nashville, TN where I joined LCNV’s 2007-08 AmeriCorps Alumni for our friend, Karen’s wedding. It was a blast; there’s nothing better than a reunion with some of my favorite people on the planet. Karen was part of our AmeriCorps team the first year we expanded to four members and it was an amazing time to be a teacher. Traversing the county to teach, toiling over data entry and in the most epic staff meetings, we got to know each other and really make a difference in our service delivery. Some of you may have worked with her as a volunteer at Sherwood Hall Library or Crestwood Elementary before she moved to Nashville and to start law school at Vanderbilt University.
Karen, Chuck, Jenn, Nick, and I had a great time teaching together and starting many of the projects that have helped reshape the classroom program and our own life trajectories. Karen is a beautiful blend of incredible intellectual capacity and compassion. When you have a conversation with her, you can see how quickly her brain is working and you can hear the locks clicking open. Karen is dynamic, challenging and energetic; and just as good, her husband, Brad, is completely her equal and brings out the very best in her.
After our year teaching together, roadtrips, and many phone calls catching up and contemplating life decisions, I look back at the friends I have from my AmeriCorps year and feel so lucky for the opportunities we’ve shared. As we’ve initiated new members in the years since, I see so many of us going on to incredible positions, engaging and helping the community. I hope with all the federal budget cuts around, we can still offer opportunities for smart young adults to provide great service and reach their potential.
-Katie Beckman, Program Assistant
Tags: alumni, community, student stories, students, thank you!
Who have you seen today? I hope you exchanged smiles with at least one familiar face. A family member, friend, coworker, someone you see at your regular stops at the cash register or bus stop.
Today, while in the halls of James Lee Community Center just outside the LCNV office, I ran into Pascual, one of my level 3 students from my teaching days that seem so long ago. These days, I usually see him in passing as he totters to the Senior Center from the corner bus stop. He is a charming man, proud and intelligent; doing his best to compensate for a stroke that almost paralyzed his right side. He reminds me of a steadfast little tin soldier, always moving forward. The semester I last taught him, he was going to graduate from our classroom programs. Our scholarship program wasn’t enough for him to afford Fairfax County’s Adult Community Education classes and he didn’t have use of his right hand for writing, so he stopped taking classes with us and has continued to do his best on his own.
Today, he stopped me on my way to the kitchen to define a few words he had scrawled on a paper napkin. He keeps reading, and today it was a Washington Post column on the economy. He asked me to define “stunted,” “burbs,” and “cottage.” It was a joy to see the “ah hah” moment pull light into his face as I answered his questions with analogies and gestures. I miss teaching, I miss that one on one connection, and I miss learning from my students. As we parted ways, he put on a paternal voice and said, “Thank you so much for everything. And please remember, life is beautiful, but very very short,” as he pinched his able fingers in front of his face. I couldn’t help but glance at the other frozen right arm, folded to his chest. I couldn’t help but admire his constance and compassion.
These are our students. People with amazing experience, capability and value. These are people who generally can’t access resources of other educational organizations. I take great pride in the being part of the LCNV community of partners, staff, and students who make our services possible; it is an amazing privilege. Please consider volunteering, donating and referring a friend to our programs. Thank you all and I hope you remember what Pascual said, “Life is beautiful, but very short.”
-Katie Beckman, Program Assistant