News & Blog

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The Community Literacy Summit will be held on Friday, Feb. 28 from 7:30 AM- 2:00 PM at the GVSU Eberhard Center in downtown Grand Rapids. The half day event will address the language and literacy development in young children ages birth to five, specifically those that lead to kindergarten readiness and grade level reading. Below are a listing of the 10 Summit breakouts offered during two sessions. Register for the event today

Gonzalo is a learner in our tutoring program and takes English classes at his children's school with our family literacy program. He wrote about his experience. 

My name is Gonzalo Gonzalez.

I am from Guatemala. I was 19 years old when I came to America. I work for Ventra. I live near Buchanan elementary school. I am married and have 5 children. They are 3-5-7-9 and 11.

Guest blogger: Jennifer Summers, Customized Workplace English Program Coordinator

When we first profiled Ahmed Abdo in January 2017, he was preparing for a plant-wide layoff at work and studying to become a U.S. citizen. Since then, he’s made significant progress toward his goals as he continues to study with both the tutoring and workplace English programs at the Literacy Center. I sat down with him again this month to talk about his journey and his next steps.

 The Literacy Center's Annual Community Literacy Summit, Ready to Read, Ready to Succeed: Developing Literacy Birth to Five, will be held on Friday, February 28, 2020 from 7:30 am- 2:00 pm at Grand Valley State University's Eberhard Center. Tickets are available at www.literacycenterwm.org/summit2020

The Literacy Center's staff and Summit planning committee spent many, many hours researching keynote speakers for our 2020 Summit. One name (well, more like one TEDx Talk) rose above the rest. Dr. Keisha Siriboe impressed everyone with her dynamic presentation style, and her depth of knowledge on early childhood literacy and parent-child reading aloud. 

Guest Blogger: Rebekah Ewing, Literacy Coordinator

Last week, we celebrated with Pedro de Ingunza Aguilar as he graduated from our Adult Tutoring Program. After just eight months of working alongside his tutor, Julie Gendler, Pedro reached the 9th grade reading level! He reports that now he can communicate better at work, pronounce words better, and understand what people say.

Guest Blogger: Carrie Roper, IET Coordinator

Rosa Chen originally came to the Literacy Center for help with her English language skills. She quickly discovered, however, that we had many additional resources to help her pursue her goals.

Guest Blogger: Chad Patton, Director of the Literacy Center's Customized Workplace English program and Zina's career coach. 

Sitting down for her interview, Zina shows off her new badge from Spectrum Health.

“When I got my badge, [my sons] were so excited. They were kissing it.”

When we last reported on Zina, she was attending Kent ISD’s Beckwith Adult Education with the long-term goal of becoming a nurse. She was doing all of this while raising her two sons with her husband and providing childcare at her sons’ school.

Today, Zina is excited to talk about her accomplishments. As of late, she has many. She is now a mother of three, she has a new certification, and she has a new job.

The Literacy Center of West Michigan received the Governor’s Service Award for Outstanding National Service Program for its work in improving adult literacy through its Family Literacy program. The award was presented to the Literacy Center of West Michigan by Governor Whitmer and the Michigan Community Service Commission at a ceremony on Thursday, September 5 at the Detroit Opera House.  

Guest blogger: Emilio Nieto, Literacy Center’s Recruitment and Retention Specialist and Class Instructor

Charles came to the Literacy Center of West Michigan to improve his reading and writing skills. In his early career, Charles was skilled in electronic and computer work. Despite having difficulty reading manuals, he figured out how to do the work by trial and error. This allowed him to mask his difficulties with reading.

Fatos, Apo, and their two sons moved to the United States from Istanbul. Before coming here, Fatos and Apo were business partners in their home country. Given her experience as a business owner, Fatos was able to quickly spot a need in West Michigan’s business community.

“When I came to here… I did not see that a restaurant had fresh and homemade food.”

Together, they began to design their restaurant and café: Café de Miro. However, they faced a few barriers.

“I can’t open one of these stores,” Fatos says, “because I don’t speak English too well.” That’s when Fatos and Apo came to the Literacy Center.

Written by Jennifer Summers, Customized Workplace English Coordinator

When Larry and Coromoto visited the U.S. in 2017, they planned to stay for 15 days. However, the instability in their home country of Venezuela was worsening by the day, and their son, a doctor who had been practicing medicine here for 20 years, persuaded them to stay in Grand Rapids.

Salvador Geron wrote this article for our Spring 2019 edition of The Reader, our learner/tutor newsletter. Salvador and his tutor, Gerri, have been working together since October 2018.

If I could have three wishes they would be the following:

For my 1st wish is that poverty would disappear in the world, because I see people who have nothing to eat.

My 2nd wish would be to remove the hatred people have about the differences of races. People should be able to see each other regardless of the color of their skin, and help each other.

Interviewed by: Carrie Roper, Literacy Coordinator

 Marielena Huerta is a tutor who is also serving as an AmeriCorps member through the Literacy Center's Family Literacy program. Her parents were originally from Mexico, so she understands the challenges adults face as they learn English. Marielena attended college at Aquinas, where she majored in Community Leadership and Interpretation. 

 

Interviewed by: Thomas Rodgers, Family Literacy Coordinator 

"We've Impacted Each Other's Lives"

Emmalee Anderson has been a tutor with the Literacy Center of West Michigan since July 2018. She first heard about the opportunity during a presentation from the Lieracy Center at her firm, McShane & Bowie. She shared her experiences with her learner, Margoth, in an interview with her literacy coordinator.

Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from? What do you do?

I am a paralegal with a law firm. I graduated from Grand Valley with a minor in Spanish and always had a love of languages. I also love to bake and that’s something Margoth and I both do. We bring each other treats. I like traveling, too. My husband and I recently went to Italy. I have dual citizenship and a lot of family in Australia.

By Olivia Montero, a recent graduate from our Adult Tutoring Program. She and her tutor, Tim Bolema, worked together from May 2017 until she graduated in August 2018. Olivia wrote this story for our Fall 2018 edition of The Reader, our newsletter of learner writing. 

I recently became interested in eating healthy foods. I have been thinking of having a garden. Then a friend told me about a place where there is a community garden sponsored by church. I was able to rent a small plot. I was very excited because I have a garden of my own.

A special thanks to our friends at Art Peers for producing the Spellebration 2019 honoree tribute video. 

Interviewed by: Katherine Payne, Literacy Coordinator

Laurie Zarzecki Emelander is the Finance Director at the Literacy Center of West Michigan, and recently celebrated 25 years with the organization. Laurie has tutored for the past 4 years and spoke with Katherine Payne, Literacy Coordinator, about her experiences.

A Matter of Fact Series

Blogger: Queyonna Hunt (Literacy Coordinator)

It’s been a month of busy energy here at the Literacy Center. We've been basking in the warming weather and enjoying the materials that just popped onto the shelves in our Tutor Library--an amazing eruption of Non-Fiction!

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We are delighted to introduce to you this month's Featured Supplementary Resource that is literally a matter of fact!

With a fitting name, the Fact Matters series helps develop learners' foundational knowledge through the topics they will encounter in their science, social studies, and art texts. The best part? There are so many accessible titles in this series.

Amanda VanLente began tutoring in 2015. Since that time, she's worked with two learners and is in the process of being matched with a third. Family Literacy Coordinator Thomas Rodgers interviewed Amanda about her experience.  

Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from? What do you do?

I’m originally from Grant, a small farming community north of Grand Rapids, but GR has been home for almost a decade. I work in marketing and advertising.

What drew you to the mission of the Literacy Center?

Libby Crabb Wahlstrom [Literacy Center Development Director] was the first person to introduce me to the Literacy Center. We are close friends, and when she told me about the organization, I was floored. I spent a month in Rome during college, and I know how hard that was to navigate. I can’t imagine not being able to read while still performing a job or navigating a city. I also loved that the Literacy Center serves adult learners. Don’t get me wrong, kids are important, but there are so few programs for adults.

Blogger: Carrie Roper, Literacy Coordinator

Monika Skripal’s motivation for practicing her English language skills always comes back to one thing: family. As the mother of Monika Skripaltwo young daughters, Monika is using her English daily to advocate for their needs and to support their education. In fact, it was through their school – West Godwin Elementary – that Monika first heard about the parent-focused English classes offered through the Literacy Center’s Family Literacy Program.

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