Imagine, as an adult, you can't read above a third-grade level. How do you find a job, where do you go, who is there to help you?
For the 15 percent of the Lycoming County adult population who find themselves in this position, those questions are an everyday reality.
"When I learned of this statistic a few years ago, my first reaction was that it wasn't possible," said Scott N. Lowery, Lycoming County United Way executive director. "It was unimaginable to me that the percentage of adults being unable to read above that level in this day and age would be that high. Reading is the basis for the communication highway we are traveling. For individuals to become successful that skill must be mastered."
The Learning Center at the James V. Brown Library gets heavy use. More than 350 county residents have begun the road to improved literacy in the past year alone.
The answer to the 'who is there to help question' resides within the walls of the James V. Brown Library at The Learning Center, a LCUW funded program partner. Started as a one-on-one tutoring program by an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer in 1991, the program continually has grown; 357 Lycoming County residents have begun the road to improved literacy in the past year alone.
In addition to the traditional classes in subjects such as reading, writing and math, The Learning Center also provides support and information on other vital life skills, including self-esteem and parenting.
"The parenting classes I attend are excellent in giving me new ideas for raising children," said Vanessa Baker of Williamsport. "This brings back old traditions of family getting together with others in the community to learn and benefit from each other's experiences," she said about the monthly Family Fun Night. Vanessa has attended The Learning Center for several years and the tutors there have assisted her in working towards her GED. "I have taken many courses and I am currently enrolled in a writing class, which is my most difficult subject," she said.
"Students who attend The Learning Center to obtain their GED often continue on to a college of their choice," said Linda Herr, project director. "And after completing the program, many people return to volunteer their time to tutor other students enrolled in The Learning Center classes.
"Volunteer efforts really make a big difference in our operations. Volunteering at The Learning Center is always appreciated. Most of the instructors are volunteers and we are always willing to assist anyone who walks through the doors."
"I'm looking forward to more opportunities to volunteer and give back to the community," said 49-year old Delphine Harris, who attended classes in 1998 and has recently returned to continue with writing and math classes for her GED. "I am determined to complete these two tests. The support I have received from the staff when I was ready to give up has encouraged me to stick it out.
"It is very rewarding to know when people are empowered, they can be fully contributing members to society. All the volunteer efforts at The Learning Center really make a difference with the people who attend the classes. If you or someone you know would like to volunteer, we would welcome new volunteers."
Through its annual funds distribution process determined by community volunteers, United Way allocated $24,000 to The Learning Center to purchase educational supplies.
"The Learning Center helps move adults who are deficient in reading into a more productive role as active family members, community members, and employees," said Kate Pacacha, director of resource development and communications at LCUW. "This program has a tremendous impact on our community and the local work force."
For more information on The Learning Center, call Herr at 321-0200, extension 151. For more information regarding Lycoming County United Way or to support the campaign that funds programs like this, visit www.lcuw.org or call 323-9448.