Literacy Volunteers celebrate 10th anniversary
Literacy Volunteers on the Green, a nonprofit organization that provides free literacy instruction, is going strong as it heads into its second decade.
A gala dinner and auction will take place Oct. 24 to celebrate the New Milford-based program’s 10th anniversary.
Literacy Volunteers, co-founded in 2005 by Rita Guargilia, of New Milford, and Anne Maitland, of Washington Depot, was established to address the need for English language instruction in the New Milford area.
“We simply saw that there was a need in our community,” Maitland said.
Over the years, the organization “has adapted to the needs of its students,” Guargilia said. “There is a program for families, a mentoring program at the high school, citizenship and conversation classes, and basic literacy in reading and writing for native English speakers.”
Literacy Volunteers’ mission is to promote English literacy among individuals in Litchfield and northern Fairfield counties in order to help people become independent readers, writers, listeners, and speakers through classes, one-on-one instruction and activities.
Students who become fluent in English and improve their basic literacy skills can improve their financial stability and employment prospects, according to the Literacy Volunteers, and pass the literacy portions of the United States’ naturalization test, as well as actively contribute to their communities.
Since its inception, the organization has helped more than 800 students and trained more than 200 volunteer tutors.
“I am … proud of the individuals who populate this organization, board, staff, tutors, students,” said Arri Sendzimir, a past board president. “The power of their involvement is immense.”
One of the Literacy Volunteeers’ programs is Family Read, a 29-lesson curriculum that combines reading, listening, speaking, sharing and art to help parents explore books.
“Parents can connect with the literature, find meaning and understanding, which will help their children become more thoughtful readers and help their children get more out of the reading experience,” said Carol McCarthy, who is a co-leader of the program with Casey Pascal.
The basic literacy program teaches students who are native English speakers but are functionally illiterate, with little or no reading or writing ability.
Students have ranged from a 40-year-old man with a middle school education who wanted to become a better reader to a high school dropout who wanted to go back to night school for a diploma, but needed help in reading independently.
“My eyes have been opened to the struggles that people of all ages face,” said Loretta Bayers, a program tutor. “They have all enriched my life.”
The accomplishments of these literacy programs are mirrored in the students whose lives they have enhanced.
“Year after year, whenever I would meet the students, they honored us with their humble thanks for the help we had given them to get a job, talk to their kids’ teachers, make new friends and become contributing members of their new home,” said Allan Priaulx, a former Literacy Volunteers board president,
Another program, the high school mentoring program, extends itself to any senior who needs help in writing a college essay.
“This past year, we took 43 students to completion,” said tutor Norman Adler. “Over the four years (since it began), almost 200 seniors have used the program.”
The program goes beyond the immigrant community, thereby reaching a broader audience than other Literacy on the Green programs, Adler noted.
The administration at New Milford High School likes it, Adler said, so it has opened the way for other literacy programs there.
Literacy Volunteers on the Green’s success stories are many.
Last year, seven of its students became United States citizens, 15 completed the intensive sessions and progressed two levels in their fluency, and 50-plus parents benefited from the family literacy program.
Many former students have gone on to college or started their own businesses.
As one student from Colombia noted about her experience with Literacy Volunteers on the Green, “You have changed my life and opened a new world of possibilities for me.
“Thanks to the (tutor) volunteers, not only can we improve ourselves but, by becoming a part of the mainstream community, we can contribute to making our new country a better place,” she said.
Literacy Volunteers is a ProLiteracy America Volunteer Program Affiliate, a United Way Partner Agency, and a member of the Connecticut Literacy Alliance. For details about LVG or the gala, call 860-355-0830 or visit lvg-ct.org.