This post was written in conjunction with Kate Marshall
Kate’s journey with Project Second Chance, Contra Costa County Library’s adult literacy program, began as a volunteer 13 years ago. She recalls falling in love with their mission so much that she soon joined the staff as a Tutor-Learner Coordinator. Kate matches tutors with adults in need of help with their literacy skills to reach practical life goals and supports them as they progress. “I feel lucky to train talented, big-hearted volunteers to work with adults who struggle with basic reading, writing, and spelling,” Kate exclaims.
Without their group of trained volunteers, Kate and her team say they would not be able to reach the number of adults they help. “They allow us to offer one-to-one instruction that customizes instruction to each learner’s needs. Their generosity and commitment to service inspires me every day.”
And the commitment to the work they do is always rewarded when a learning adult is able to complete something they wouldn’t have without Project Second Chance’s help. “We love celebrating learner successes when they accomplish big life goals, like getting a GED or dream job, or passing the citizenship or driver’s test. But really the small things are just as great, like when Greg made the drinks in his refrigerator easier to find by applying newly-learned alphabetizing skills to his beverage supply (beer, cola, diet cola…); or when Martha discovered that she could now read the buttons on her oven and learned that it was a self-cleaning oven and so her scrubbing days were over.”
Kate recruits volunteers year-round for their Tutor Training courses that they offer 3-4 times a year. They use a couple of different ways to recruit volunteers, including VolunteerMatch to list volunteer opportunities for multiple community libraries. “[It] gives us access to a broad online audience we might not otherwise reach. As soon as we get emails from prospective tutors through VolunteerMatch, we contact them to let them know about when and how to sign up for training.”
On the power of their work, Kate thinks of this quote from ProLiteracy, “Every important social issue is impacted by low literacy. When individuals learn how to read, write, do basic math, and use computers, they have the power to lift themselves out of poverty, lower health care costs, find and keep sustainable employment, and ultimately change their lives.”
About Project Second Chance: Started in 1984 by the Contra Costa County Library, Project Second Chance (PSC) has trained 3,700 volunteers who have donated 474,000 hours to serve 6,100 adults. PSC helps adults all over Contra Costa County who never learned to read, write or spell above a sixth-grade level, either because they may have a learning disability such as dyslexia or because they are English Language Learners. PSC uses special methods and materials for each student to help them learn. The one-to-one tutoring is free and confidential. PSC asks that if you know an adult who needs literacy tutoring, tell them their local library may have just the right program for them. And consider volunteering as a tutor!
Author Bio: Kate Marshall believes that everyone has a story to tell and someone who wants to hear it. Her work in adult literacy helps adults to begin to express their thoughts and personal stories in writing, often for the first time. Every year her program publishes a book of student writings that never fail to touch her.
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