News & Blog: Advocate Spotlights

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Brad Hieftje is an AmeriCorps Family Literacy Tutor in our Adult Tutoring Program. He reviewed the Activist Series for use in tutoring sessions. 

Through my AmeriCorps service at the Literacy Center, I tutor incredible learners from all over the world. We practice several different English skills on a weekly basis, while also working towards accomplishing their short and long term goals. Staying true to the Literacy Center’s mission of seeking social justice through the power of literacy, I try to choose texts that emphasize diverse voices. The Literacy Center has many great resources for this in their library, including the Activist Series from the Grass Roots Press.

Kiri DeYoung is an AmeriCorps member with the Literacy Center of West Michigan. Kiri DeYoung

I am completely honored to be serving as an AmeriCorps ESL Instructor with the Family Literacy program at the Literacy Center of West Michigan. Each week, I present new words, sentences and activities to groups of hard working parents with children in the Grand Rapids Public School system so they can practice a little bit more English.

Learning a new language is tough work that requires an inspirational amount of vulnerability. It takes courage and a never-give-up kind of determination. To learn requires trust and empowerment. To learn requires comfortable and even ground.

Guest Blogger: Preston Wyckoff, AmeriCorps English Language Instructor with the Family Literacy Program

Once a month at the Literacy Center, the English language instructors put on an event for the benefit of their learners and their families. These Family Activity Nights, or FANs, provide an opportunity for students of all levels, from absolute beginners to more advanced speakers of English, to practice their English skills in a more natural, social setting. Each event is made up of a group dinner and a subsequent activity designed to get both the adult learners to bond with their children and fellow learners while using English language skills.

At the first of these events held this year, I was encouraged to see that the majority of my learners had shown up with their children, their spouses, and other family members, and for the most part were enjoying themselves and chatting amongst one another. The activity for the October FAN was to create and illustrate a book featuring sentences about the values associated with the celebration of Thanksgiving.

The Literacy Center of West Michigan is honored to receive donations in memory of Linda Alkire who passed away earlier this month. Linda was a tutor at the Literacy Center and her family is asking that memorial donations be directed to the Literacy Center. Valerie Emmenecker, Director of the Adult Tutoring Program, shares her memories of working with Linda and her learner, Seida:

“Linda Alkire joined the Adult Tutoring Program in April 2012. She worked with a woman named Seida Perviz. Within a few weeks, Seida and Linda formed a close personal relationship. Linda did an exercise with Seida where she asked about Seida’s immigration story. Seida experienced serious political trauma in her home country of Bosnia and Linda provided a sympathetic ear. While they were working together, Linda helped Seida get her first job in the U.S.

Paloma Deerfield just completed her service as an AmeriCorps Family Literacy Instructor at Buchanan and Cesar Chavez elementary schools. Paloma began her service later than many of her fellow members, but writes that “the classroom community that my learners and I created in the few months that we learned together was a unique experience that I hold dear.” After AmeriCorps, Paloma will continue to work at her “dream job” at Midnight Vault comic book store in downtown Grand Rapids.

Time is such a relative, nearly inapplicable measurement of the strength of bonds formed by individuals. In the four short months that my learners and I spent together, learning from one another, a strong bond and a great sense of community formed.

Mr. John C. Kennedy, President/CEO of Autocam Medical, is known as a creative and savvy businessman who often works alongside national business leaders and elected officials. Yet there is one other thing that everyone knows about Mr. Kennedy: he has a deeply personal passion for literacy as it relates to equity.

Excerpts from an interview with Alice Apol, the Literacy Center’s longest serving tutor and the recipient of this year’s Marshall Pitler Volunteer of the Year Award

From Fall 2015 Reader

“One learner that I worked with for a long period of time was Margaret Ortega. She still calls me now and we go out for lunch every once in a while. She became very proficient. In fact, when she took the last test, she tested right out of the program! She said, ‘I wish I had known that, I would have answered more questions wrong!”

For tutoring, “I think relationship-building is very important, especially in the beginning. Asking them a little bit about their lives, so they feel comfortable knowing that you’re interested in them as a person. And then each week we have a quick conversation about our weeks.”

Click here to read the full issue.

Nancy VanIngen, Program Assistant at the Literacy Center, celebrated her 25th Anniversary with the organization in May. Katy Payne talked with her about her experience.

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