Confidence. This is the most crucial attribute Sheila McLaughlin, executive director of the Literacy Volunteers Association Cape-Atlantic Inc., expects tutors will bring to students.
"It moves mountains," McLaughlin said, at a recent tutor-training workshop held at Royal Suites Healthcare and Rehabilitation in Galloway.
LVA Cape-Atlantic, the volunteer-based adult reading and English language program based in Pleasantville, began training tutors in 1983. The training, which takes place during five sessions of about three hours each, prepares volunteers to plan free one-on-one lessons with an assigned adult student.
"There is a waiting list of students," the executive director explained to the group of nine volunteers. She tried to stress the importance of having more tutors to give aid to these adults, who are often underserved.
Adults who feel they would benefit from tutoring are assessed by LVA through standardized literacy testing. Tutors, once certified, will service these basic literacy students (usually America-born adults who read at or below the sixth grade level) or ESL students of various levels, McLaughlin said.
"Students are all adults, from all walks of life, from many different countries," Program Director Anne Osman said.
These individuals apply with various goals in mind, McLaughlin said. The desire to help their children with schoolwork or to apply for a drivers license or U.S. citizenship are among many accomplishments students wish to achieve.
During week four of the workshop, tutors are assigned a student and are encouraged to contact with them to discuss his or her long term goals, tutor trainer Bob Weyhumuller said.
"Encourage text (messaging)," said Weyhumuller, one of four tutor trainers. "That's our primary goal, to teach communication."
Judy Branin, of Linwood, received her tutor certification that night. She explained that she is ready to help her student get a better grasp on basic literacy so that he can keep up with his household finances.
"I'm ready, and he seems anxious to get started," the recent retiree from the Linwood school system said. "I'm excited to work with an adult - as a change - since I worked with special needs children for so many years."
At the Oct. 9 final workshop, McLaughlin also pointed out that the tutors are most likely just as nervous as the students are. "It really is remarkable. When it clicks (between the tutor and student), it's magic," she said.
Tutors plan meeting times and places, usually at one of the several public libraries in the area, and must commit to two hours per week for a year, McLaughlin said.
People of all ages from Atlantic and Cape May counties are encouraged to register. A high school degree is all that is required. Tutors range from recent high school graduates to those in their 90s, McLaughlin said.
McLaughlin also had encouraging words for the certified tutors, telling them they were sure to face challenges along the way. She called on them to recognize the contribution they are making to their community, state and country as a whole. "You are the lifeblood," she said.
The next training will be Saturday, Oct. 20, from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., at Shore Medical Center and will continue for the next four Saturdays at that location. Call 609-383-3377 or visit lvacapeatlantic.org to download the registration form.
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