New Fall Classroom Schedules!

August 8, 2011 at 4:43 PM | Posted in Calendar, Class, Community, Community Partners, ESOL, Family Learning, Media, News, Teaching, Testing, Volunteers | Comments Off on New Fall Classroom Schedules!
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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:

FLP Class Schedule_Fall 2011

ESOLC_Master Schedule_Fall 2011

Conversation Classes_Fall 2011

Thank you for all your support!

Erin Finn, Director of Classroom Programs

Empowering Speaker Series

June 27, 2011 at 4:13 PM | Posted in AmeriCorps, Class, Community, Community Partners, ESOL, Teaching, Volunteers | 1 Comment
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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

-Kerrin Epstein, Lead Teacher and AmeriCorps Member


A Breath of Fresh Air

May 3, 2011 at 4:09 PM | Posted in AmeriCorps, Community, Community Partners, Volunteers | Comments Off on A Breath of Fresh Air
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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

Budgeting Challenges – Rely on the Mission

April 6, 2011 at 11:26 AM | Posted in Class, Community, Community Partners, Development, donations, Donors, ESOL, Finances, Staff, Volunteers | Comments Off on Budgeting Challenges – Rely on the Mission
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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


Thank you for being

November 17, 2010 at 4:33 PM | Posted in AmeriCorps, Community, Community Partners, Favorite, Staff | Comments Off on Thank you for being
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I woke up feeling awful this morning, my whole body aching as I tried to do my morning stretch. My sister just got over the same cold that laid her out for almost a week of coughing, fevers and general uselessness.  “Crap, ” I thought.  “I have so much to do,”  as I thought about the training, paperwork, and other projects I had piling up on my desk.  After a cup of morning tea with my dad and a peak at the apple pie I made for today’s potluck, I thought, “I can get through aches.”

After work last night, I made a quick stop at the grocery and then spent the evening hours in the kitchen with my little sister.  A little nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves warmed my kitchen made me really excited for the potluck.  So I took some Dayquil and I got myself ready.  When I got to the office despite my cold, I got a little work in before our celebration.  When we all gathered in the classroom it was so good to see some of our alumni staff and our AmeriCorps partners from Beacon Literacy.  The holidays are such a special time to celebrate the people the shape our lives.  I’m so glad I have such a great workplace to come into every day.

Katie Beckman, Program Assistant

A Closer Look at Our Community

October 1, 2010 at 12:12 AM | Posted in Community Partners, Media, Statistics | Comments Off on A Closer Look at Our Community
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I just had an opportunity to review an impressive report from the Northern Virginia Community Foundation, A Portrait of Children in Northern Virginia 2010.  A comprehensive needs assessment, done in partnership with Voices For Virginia’s Children, this report revealed staggering statistics about children living in poverty, children lacking health care, teen suicides and high school drop-out rates.  Really?  In Northern Virginia?  How we have successfully blocked out or denied the full picture of our community is frightening.   We need to pay a bit more attention to the future generation beginning right now.

Working in adult education, the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia has a huge impact of the children in our community.  As the statistics will demonstrate, children who grow up in healthy families, whose parents read to them regularly and are involved in their school activities, have much greater success in school and beyond.   LCNV is dedicated to teaching adults, including new American immigrants, the basic skills of reading, writing, speaking and understanding English.   Improving literacy and language skills of parents, particularly those in immigrant families, will strongly influence the performance of their children, as well as strengthen the family’s opportunities for economic stability.

“ Parental education is a strong indicator of the likelihood that a child will experience poverty. In 2007 about 43% of Virginia children of parents without high school degrees lived in poor families. This compares with 12% of children whose parents graduated from high school and 6% of children whose parents had some college education.”

“More than 50% of the 30,000 children living in poverty in Northern Virginia are children in immigrant families.”

For more information and to read the entire report, please visit the Northern Virginia Community Foundation’s web-site:

Patti Donnelly, Executive Director


A note from Nancy

September 30, 2010 at 11:54 PM | Posted in Announcements, Board, Community Partners, Donors, Volunteers | Comments Off on A note from Nancy
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On Thursday, Sept. 23, 2010, I attended Booz Allen Hamilton’s Nonprofit Conference on Fundraising Development as a member of LCNV’s Board of Directors, along with Suzie Eaton, LCNV’s Senior Director of Development.  

The topics presented on fundraising were timely and the speakers offered workable, real life suggestions drawn from their experiences in the nonprofit sphere. I am eager to implement many of these ideas as tools in my role as a member of LCNV’s Fund Development Committee as we proactively restructure our fundraising strategy.  Ultimately, the information presented will make me a more effective spokesperson for LCNV’s mission of increasing literacy in Northern Virginia. For Suzie, the biggest take away from the session were tips on how to create a culture of fundraising for the organization that involves not only development staff, but also Board members, volunteers, students and the entire staff. It was also a chance to reconnect with colleagues and LCNV partners, such as The Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation, Loudoun Literacy Council, Reston Interfaith, Helping Children Worldwide, Leadership Fairfax and Arts Council of Fairfax County. 

We both highly recommend this speaker series to anyone involved in working with or volunteering for nonprofits. Please feel free to contact Suzie Eaton or me to find out how to receive information about this speaker series. Kudos to our host, Booz Allen Hamilton, and its partners for supporting this terrific program!

Nancy Needs, LCNV Board of Directors

New Teachers

September 23, 2010 at 11:13 AM | Posted in AmeriCorps, Community Partners, Family Learning, Teaching, Volunteers | 1 Comment

All the new Americorps members will begin teaching their classes either this week or the next. I am co-teaching an FLP class this year at Connections for Hope with another Americorps member and the class beginning this morning, making my co-teacher and me the first of our group to start teaching.

We only began working at LCNV about three weeks ago, and up until this point we’ve been through a lot of trainings and registrations, but tomorrow we put all of the theory we’ve absorbed into practice. I think that I speak for our entire group when I say that our first teaching experiences are coming with a mixture of excitement and anxiety. I remember various LCNV staff members reiterating the idea that for many of our students, coming to English class is an opportunity that does not come without sacrifices, be they time, money, or otherwise. Many of our students work multiple jobs or spend long hours taking care of their children prior to coming to English class, and for people who spend their days working in service-type jobs, this is their time to come and be served by us. As I make my last-minute preparations for my first class tomorrow morning when I get to truly begin my Americorps year of service, I am reminded and humbled by the importance of the work ahead of me for this upcoming year! Wish us luck!

-Alicia Nieves, AmeriCorps Volunteer

National Book Scholarship

August 25, 2010 at 2:48 PM | Posted in Basic Literacy, Community Partners, Donors, News | Comments Off on National Book Scholarship

ProLiteracy Logo

The Council recently received a National Book Scholarship award from ProLiteracy, the largest adult literacy organization in the United States. This award provided the Council with almost $2,000 worth of books from ProLiteracy’s publication division, New Readers Press. Those of us connected with the Council’s tutoring programs were especially delighted with the award, since New Readers Press publishes many of the text series used with our learners. Thanks to the award, we were able to add additional copies of the student books and teachers’ manuals to the library. Tutors often like to try several different texts with their students before deciding which one would be best to use. Now they are less likely to be disappointed by finding that all the copies have been checked out.

Many of our learners are interested in obtaining their citizenship, and New Readers Press publishes an excellent series, entitled Citizenship: Passing the Test, which is designed to help students prepare for the interview. The materials are always in high demand by our tutors. The National Book Scholarship award enabled us to obtain additional copies of these books and accompanying audio CDs for the library. In addition, it provided us with additional copies of the series’ literacy skills workbook. Instead of being added to our library, these copies of the workbook will be distributed to tutors who are helping learners with especially low literacy skills prepare for the exam.

Elise Bruml, Tutoring Programs Director

Friends of Friends

August 20, 2010 at 3:04 PM | Posted in Advocacy, Announcements, Community Partners, News, Volunteers | Comments Off on Friends of Friends

The mother of one of my friend’s is one of those magical connective people who will remember exactly where you left off in your last conversation and probably line you up with the job and/or man of your dreams during the course of an afternoon barbecue.  Fabia is a beautiful example of the power of human relationships and the community they create.  When we care about someone or something, we are willing to share what we have beit other relationships, money, education, food, knowledge, etc.  When we opened Connections for Hope, it sought to create that sort of  community.

Sarah Newman, is our own  Queen Bee, she brought together the resources of several area organizations for Connections for Hope.  Last Tuesday, staff from each of the partners at Connections for Hope came together to reflect, share, and celebrate the 6 months we’ve been open to the public and creating community.  Together, over lunch, we took time sharing the progress of our programs and how we might be better at referring clients to one another.   The array of services available are amazing from free clinics to world-wide children’s aide, homework help for immigrant children and our classrooms have a home there, too.  I sat across some of the volunteers and staff from Jeanie Schmidt Free Clinic.  They have doctors who not only volunteer their time, but have specializations detecting war trauma from the many African immigrants adults who use their services.  They also hired a new counselor who is working to fill the need for mental health issues.  Here at the Literacy Council, we’re working to address the more specialized unmet needs of our clients as we search for a new hire with a specialty in Learning Disabilities to especially help our Basic Adult Literacy Program.  We are really excited and proud to be part of this vision.  Hopefully, as time goes on, we’ll be sharing clients, space, and the time and talent of our staff to better serve the Northern Virginia community.  I hope you’ll share the mission we’re so committed to with the people you care about, so they might share their time and talent, too.

-Katie Beckman, Program Assistant

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