Lycoming County United Way recognizes that the needs of the community are most often interconnected: hunger and homelessness, substance abuse and mental disorders, lack of education and joblessness. These are traits that local program providers address on a regular basis. And when one is present, the other is not far behind.
LCUW Program Partners work hard to make an impact on the lives of those individuals facing obstacles. The Learning Center, a ProLiteracy America affiliate adult basic education provider, works to equip Lycoming County adults with the basic literacy skills they need to be better family members, workers and community members.
The Learning Center is featured in the recently published book, "Teaching Adults: A Literacy Resource Book," by New Readers Press.
The following is reprinted with permission from the author, Amy Wilson, of the Mid-State Literacy Council in State College.
"There are many inspiring stories about people whose lives have been changed by literacy. The story of Melissa Stoner (learner) and Sharon Buehrer (tutor) is a story I'd like to share with everyone.
A young mother of young children, Melissa desperately wanted to obtain her GED certificate. She had dropped out of high school to work to help support her family financially. Over the years, while struggling with serious health issues and declining vision, she knew she wanted to earn her GED so that she could better provide for her children. Then Melissa found the Learning Center at the James V. Brown Library in Williamsport, PA, directed by Linda Herr.
A student at the local Catholic High School decided to volunteer at the Learning Center for his senior project, and he asked Sharon Bueher, the school librarian, to mentor his senior project. They went to volunteer tutor training together. Sharon wasn't sure if she could teach someone to read and write, but she remembered a scene in an Indiana Jones movie when Jones took a leap of faith. So she bravely stepped out and decided to take the leap. Sharon was retiring soon, and she wanted to tutor an adult.
Sharon was paired up with her new student, Melissa. For more than three years Melissa met with Sharon once or twice a week. Melissa studied and learned and never gave up. Health problems interrupted her and caused delays, but she held on to her goal of obtaining her GED. Melissa said that failure was not a motivation for her, and she wouldn't use excuses to quit. She said that her tutor, Sharon, listened and used her interests to help her to stay focused. Sharon was patient and had a real "stick with it" attitude.
Melissa said her children kept her positive, her responsibilities kept her positive, and Sharon kept her positive. Her final hurdle was to learn the intimidating math she needed to pass the GED math test. Would she be able to do it?
Sharon said that math wasn't her strong subject but that she'd do her best to help Melissa. As they began working on the required math, the Learning Center's funding was eliminated by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. Both women remained strong. Sharon said that staying connected to the program was important to her. She had received additional training there and had bounced ideas off the professional staff. She hoped that the program would stay open. Melissa needed a flexible tutoring schedule, and the one-on-one tutoring program provided that for her. The program was personalized, and the library environment was positive. Finally, after much hard work, Melissa made the call to Linda Herr: She had passed the math test and the other four GED tests! Melissa celebrated and shared her joy with her children. Now Melissa is exploring job opportunities and volunteering with the Shepherd of the Streets programs. She and Sharon went out to lunch to honor their partnership and determination. With persistence and perseverance, both Melissa and Sharon achieved their goals."
Funding for programs such as the Learning Center is critical, said Linda Herr, program director.
"It is so critical to have local support, especially through an entity such as United Way," she said. "The services we provide really depend on local support to continue to do the work that we do.
If United Way would not have stepped up in a big way when we lost state funding, we would not still be here. That sustained us and gave us legs enough to be able to reach out and try to find and locate other resources." The Learning Center will hold a Tutor Development Workshop from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. March 26 in the Lowry Room, third floor Welch Wing, James V. Brown Library. To reserve a seat, call 570-326-0536, ext. 159. For more information about Lycoming County United Way, call 570-323-9448 or visit www.lcuw.org.