In these dynamic times, so many of us are struggling to figure out how to teach and support the learners in our lives. Content and strategies change. Most “building blocks” remain the same but how we think about and use them is different. For those in the field of education – serving children or adults – we know that being able to pivot is an essential skill.
2020 marks the 35th year that Cape Fear Literacy Council (CFLC) has been providing personalized education to adults in our community. As we reflect on the lifespan of our non-profit, we see how far our programs have evolved, and how our community of support has made it all possible.
When CFLC was established as a non-profit in 1985, there was only one curriculum, The Laubach Way to Reading. While it is structured and excellent – we still use it for learners at foundational levels – it’s certainly not for everyone! Today, we integrate a wide variety of skill books and research-based content into our curricula, which are tailored to meet each student’s learning needs.
Adult learners don’t have to fit a mold; we figure out what strengths they start with and we help them make progress from there. From non-readers/English speakers to those who need brush up on skills for a job or to enter community college, we offer personalized instruction in: reading, writing, math, English communication, and test preparation including the GED and US Citizenship. CFLC focuses on the individual, and our goal is to improve each adult’s abilities and confidence. In aggregate, though, this kind of instruction has a positive impact on workforce development and community health outcomes; there is a far-reaching ripple effect of the benefits of education.
Last year, thanks to seed money from a Women’s Impact Network grant, our curriculum expanded to include a robust digital literacy focus through our Computers on Wheels (COWs) program. Before the shut-down, CFLC provided drop-in instruction and classes in computer skills to diverse learners at various locations in the community, including the Good Shepherd Center and NC Works. We look forward to the day we can resume this program, especially as the pandemic shines a spotlight on the Digital Divide we seek to mitigate.
Some things are the same as they have always been: dedicated volunteers give their talent and time to help adult learners meet their educational goals. Our grassroots approach is unchanged, and the original motto, “Each One Teach One,” still holds true.
During the pandemic, though, our method of delivery has changed substantially. All of our classes have moved to an on-line format. This works particularly well for our higher-level learners. In fact, a silver lining of the shut-down is that we have adapted classes in a way that removes transportation, childcare, and scheduling barriers for many. We plan to continue to offer this option, even after we are able to resume face-to-face classes. Currently, we do provide scheduled, in-person, one-on-one tutoring sessions. We are so grateful to see some of our learners and volunteers coming back, and remain hopeful for the future when we can once again serve about 500 adults annually – in person.
Ultimately, it is our community that keeps the Literacy Council going. Our students are the center of all that we do. Our kind and committed volunteer tutors and teachers make this good work possible. Our other volunteers – including one of the hardest working boards of directors in Wilmington – keep the organization functioning effectively. And our donors and supporters are critically important in the Literacy Council’s ability to continue to serve this community, and to evolve in order to remain a relevant center for adult learning.
Yasmin Tomkinson started volunteering as a 1-on-1 tutor at Cape Fear Literacy Council (CFLC) in 2002, and was delighted to join the staff in 2004. She is now the Executive Director and remains inspired by CFLC’s diverse adult learners and dedicated volunteers. CFLC’s mission is to provide personalized education so adults can transform their lives and contribute to a stronger community. For 35 years, this indispensable non-profit has been making a positive impact in our region, one adult learner at a time.
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