To empower adults through literacy.
Literacy Volunteers was incorporated in 1976. It is an accredited affiliate of ProLiteracy America, the national Literacy organization, with 8 paid staff--4 full time and 4 part-time. The agency has four offices, 4 Science Park in New Haven, 20 Church St. in New Haven (Gateway Community College), 415 Howe Ave. in Shelton (Valley Adult Education) and 14 West Main St. in Meriden.
Goals for 13-14:
Literacy Volunteers plays a critical role in this community, where structural issues like adult literacy consistently provide obstacles to personal and community growth. The numbers are staggering—30% of the adults in New Haven county, more than 200,000 people, struggle with literacy.
Funding is always at the center of Literacy Volunteers ability to help more adults. Our 255 volunteer tutors helped 1,285 adults last year, 3% more than the prior year. That’s just the tip of the iceberg, but it reflects the maximum number that a small, underfunded and understaffed agency can effectively serve.
Illiteracy is a costly problem. Adults with low literacy skills have difficulty finding jobs with adequate pay. They lose income as well as the opportunity for self improvement. They cannot help their children succeed in the school system because they are unable to read to them and help them with homework. When prescriptions cannot be read, illiteracy can cause costly medical problems. Businesses lose money through accidents and errors. But, illiteracy is a solvable problem. Every day I see the positive impact that tutoring has. The volunteer tutors are creative, energetic and supportive. Classes are small and confidence grows as new skills are learned. Learning is celebrated. Friendships are formed. Curiosity is rediscovered and ideas are discussed. Referrals are made for job training and further study. The students are motivated to learn and testing confirms that they have made significant improvements.
The cause of literacy is not a fad. The students and their types of need have changed over the years and our tutor training and the resources we use have also evolved. But the goal of Literacy Volunteers remains the same: to improve people’s lives in every way by teaching them to read and speak English. I know that the efforts of this agency and the service delivery model we use are making a difference and that the students are achieving long term changes.
Donna Violante, Executive Director
Whether being a part of the board or staff, or a volunteer, all of us at Literacy Volunteers share a common mission - 100% literacy. We know that literacy empowers adults; adults in the United States who can read and speak English are more productive in their family and community; their children are safer and more successful as they develop. Our board is a diverse group of professionals and retirees who represent our community and our constituents. We are passionate about our mission and continue to take steps to improve our programs.
We continue to operate Literacy Volunteers in lean economic times, but insure that we provide an infrastructure that is aligned with our student and tutor needs. We manage an operations budget that is advised by the Finance Committee and reviewed at each Board of Directors meeting.
As a board we review key success factors that include:
We continually review our community needs and look for ways to maintain a growing base without significantly increasing funding - students have grown 55% (575 to 1285) in the last four years, but tutors have only increased by 29% (181 to 255). That means we have maintained our programs and our success rates without significantly increasing operational expenses through best in class training programs and tutoring methodologies. And we continually evaluate ways to reach potential new donors, sponsors and tutors. All these efforts assure us that our spending is aligned with our commitment to improving literacy in the greater New Haven area and operating the most efficient and effective programs that we can.
Literacy Volunteers - President of the Board of Directors
A student wrote: "I want to communicate why I came to the literacy program in New Haven. I had problem writing and spelling at an early age. And school it was emotionally, especially painful and feeling very ashamed in the class room. But I was gifted in sports and auto mechanics. I was able to get by. My plans were to go in and get help but things came up in you put it off. At the age of 57, I walked in to the literacy program for help.
I wanted to learn to read better, write more clearly and spell better. Learning these skills will help build my confidence. With these skills I can go on to college and get a degree in Human Services. Working in Human Services will give me the education I need, like working with the handicapped, working with DCF’s kids and working with elderly will let me give back to the community.
Right now I do after school programs with kids. I teach them the skill of martial arts. People often think martial arts is just punching and kicking. Martial Arts are helping with kid’s confidence and help build the self-esteem. I want to thank the entire Tutors in the literacy volunteers program for their time, dedication and patience."
"Today, I want to talk about my trip to this country, I am from Ecuador, In my country I am a Pilot, and I was working in a little aero-taxi company for about 3 years. In my country the aviation industry is very small and for this reason few pilots have enough experience in hours. Pilots can apply for a better airline job but its companies require pilots to have experience in hours, pass their exams and English proficiency in technical aviation English. For me it was very difficult to learn this language and there I didn't have someone or some people who I could to speak or learn so I decided to give up my job and I went to this country to try to improve my English, Fortunately I have my parents here so I am staying at their home. I am studying in the morning in ADULT EDUCATION CENTER and in the afternoon I am attending LITERACY VOLUNTEERS in GATEWAY for conversation classes. There I found some people, who I can speak, learn, listen, study and share our stories because all persons there come from different countries, cultures, etc. I have enjoyed each conversation class and I have been trying to feed my mind with new experiences. When I went here I wanted a goal and it is that I want to learn this language or to give the best of me. When I will return to my country I want to find a new job then enjoy it. I love to flight and may be in the near future I wish or hope work here (USA). I would like to fly the biggest aircrafts around the world".
The following are samples of essays that Literacy Volunteer students wrote for the 2013 edition of "Hear Our Voices."
Things I Want to Learn
"I want to learn how to drive. Part of my goal is to save money for a new car so I can go places, hang out with my friends maybe even go to New York. A G.E.D will help me get into cooking school so I can open up my own business. Cooking in a restaurant in New York would be great I could make more money."
Learning To Read and Write
"I could not read all the books in the second grade. In the third grade the words go longer and harder. I go frustrated when I could not read the words. I acted out by banging on my desk.
The school decided to have me see a social worker. I meet with him three times a week but that did not help my reading or my acting out. They then decided to have me work with the janitor from 12 noon to 2:00 p.m. every day. I did that for a year.
After my mother spoke with the school officials and many tests I went from the 4th grade to 5th in a matter of days. I felt like I was in the hook on phonics program they called in special education program. The program did not work for me. I still acted out in 5th and 6th grade.
I was home bond due to surgery for most of the 7th grade. I had a teacher only one hour a day.
During high school I did well in classes like art, math and music they did not require to read much. In my other classes my teachers passed me anyway.
After I graduated I could not get a regular job because I could not read well enough. I started selling drugs. I did that for 15 years on and off. As my children got older, I did not want them to follow in my foot steps. I was tired of just sliding through life. I had my music but I wanted to write down the songs on paper not just in my head. That is why I came to the Reading Center which I call my college.
I also would like to attend cooling classes at Gateway Community College. I need to read before I can do this.
This program is working for me. I will keep coming."
Jobs in America
"My name is Mariola. I was born in Wrzesnia, Poland. Wrzesnia is about the same size as Shelton, CT. My mother came to the United States before we did, as my sisters and I stayed in Poland to finish school. After one year of teaching elementary school in Poland, I came to the United States. I spent many days crying because I could not communicate with people. My first job was in Dunkin’ Donuts in New Jersey. After one year, I went back to Poland to get married, and then my husband and I both came to America. Fortunately, my husband was able to get a steady job in Stratford. I cleaned houses to add to our income. It seemed like all we did was work and work. After a few years and two children, we purchased a condominium in Shelton, and at that time I worked for a short while in Griffin Hospital. We were than able to purchase a store. After 5 years, we had to sell the store, due to personal reasons. At the present time, I work in ShopRite and still clean houses. I am, however, always looking for a better job."
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A strong economy begins with a community that supports its people. When you support workforce training, financial literacy and public transportation, you enable individuals and families to work where they live, increasing their chances of economic success.
Educate a child and you change a community. For the child, a good education means better career opportunities and higher lifetime earnings. College graduates enjoy better health and are more inclined to volunteer and vote. For the community, supporting our youths’ educational goals results in a stronger society.
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