Valencia County Literacy Council: A Local Resource for Learning

To help people improve their literacy, a connection must be made, and that’s where Cecy Rodriguez comes in.

VCLC’s volunteer coordinator since 2015, Rodriguez’s main responsibilities are outreach and recruiting students and tutors for the program.

Rodriguez oversees student admissions testing to determine their literacy level, as well as regular monitoring to ensure students are progressing. She also recruits volunteer tutors and helps match them with students.

Prior to COVID, pushing services toward online and hybrid meetings, VCLC was serving an average of 140 students per year, she said.

Anyone who wants to be a volunteer tutor for VCLC is trained before they start working with clients, Rodriguez said.

“Training is the most important thing,” she said. “We have teachers who want to be tutors, but they still have to go through the training.

Tutors must be at least 18 years old and demonstrate the ability to speak, write and understand English well enough to communicate clearly. Volunteers must have at least a high school diploma or GED in order to be eligible to tutor.

Tutors must also agree to a 12 month commitment to their student(s).

“Once the tutors are ready, we pair them with a student, or if they want, a small group,” Rodriguez said. “It’s my job to provide a place (for them to meet).”

Individual tutoring sessions are twice a week for one hour and small groups meet twice a week for 2.5 hours, for a total of five hours. Students test every 60 hours of tutoring to ensure their skills are improving.

The VCLC also offers a bilingual escuelita – a small school – twice a week at the El Cerro Mission community center. The small group is mainly made up of women wishing to improve their English skills and their children.

“I live in Meadow Lake and I know the needs. I had to go to school to learn English and with three children. It was hard. I had to wait until my youngest was 15,” Rodriguez said. “A lot of people don’t have a place to leave their children or money for child care. With the escuelita, they don’t have to wait. They can bring their children with them and learn together.

Helping people improve their literacy and English skills gives them the confidence and freedom to go to the store or a doctor’s appointment on their own without their children serving as translators, Rodriguez said.

“It helps them to have a better job, to be successful,” she said. “Literacy is also important as it contributes to the economy of the community. When employers train workers in literacy, the profitability of their business improves.

Research has shown that for every dollar spent on literacy, $33 is returned to the local economy, Rodriguez said, and the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy has found that moving all adults to the equivalent of a sixth-grade reading level would create an additional $2.2 trillion. annual income for the United States

About Shirley L. Kreger

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