This Insights article was contributed by Nancy Woolley, Adult Literacy Program Director for Cape Fear Literacy Council.
I want to be the first person in my family to get a diploma. I have a two-year-old daughter. I need to be able to support her and help her with school. She has to see that getting an education is worth something.
Adults come to Cape Fear Literacy Council for a variety of reasons. Many, like the student quoted above, desire to break a generations-long cycle of low literacy and improve the lives of their children. A few have never attended school and are starting with the alphabet. Others have diplomas and just need to brush up on math or writing in order to get into college or obtain professional certifications. Many of our students are working toward their GEDs or diplomas.
Currently, students in our Adult Literacy program are between 18 and 86 years old, and each has his or her own learning goals.
The core of our Adult Literacy program is one-on-one tutoring. The individual approach offers flexibility in scheduling and ensures that adult learners receive a personalized strategy of instruction that is geared to their specific needs, goals and learning styles. We use research-based skill books tailored to the appropriate level for each learner. But at
Cape Fear Literacy Council (CFLC), our dedicated volunteer tutors go above and beyond skill books and curricula to help their students become more productive members of the community. They help students improve employment skills, learn to vote, get driver’s licenses and work on financial literacy.
As one CFLC student said: “My dreams always seemed so impossible before. So many problems got in the way. But now I have a job, and I passed the first section of my GED. My reading test scores went up four grade-levels. I feel like I can do anything.”
The Literacy Council is also part of a strong network of resources. Consider Annette, who already had her diploma when she enrolled at CFLC, but was hoping to move on to a medical certification program in college. She felt she needed to brush up on her basic skills first. She also needed to find a job.
After working on her academic skills with a one-on-one tutor for several months, she joined our Learn to Earn job-skills class and participated in the Bargain Box’s Dress to Impress event. She said she felt a huge boost in confidence.
“Before, I was afraid to sign up for a class or go to an interview because I didn’t know what to say, and I knew my clothes were all wrong. But now I’m ready,” she said.
With encouragement from her CFLC teachers and job mentor, Annette signed up for Cape Fear Community College’s Career Discovery Class in Medical Reception and successfully earned her Career Readiness Certificate (CRC).
Armed with these new skills, qualifications and confidence, Annette was ready to hit the ground running, so CFLC staff referred her to Phoenix Hometown Hires, a local non-profit focused on employment training and placement. Annette is participating in their week-long job program, designed to help her find employment. In her words, “I’m really looking for a career now, not just a job, and I’ll keep working until I get it.”
Despite the diversity of students in the Adult Literacy Program, one thing they all share is a desire to improve their lives through increased education. At CFLC, we can do that.
Nancy Woolley is a graduate of the University of Virginia with a master’s degree in Literature. She has 10 years of experience working with tutoring and ESOL centers around the country. Nancy is dedicated to education, and convinced that a strong foundation in reading is important for all aspects of life. As a newcomer to Wilmington, she first joined the CFLC community as a volunteer tutor in 2011. After working with several students and seeing firsthand the need for adult literacy resources in the area, she was delighted to become a part of the staff in 2014 .
Yasmin Tomkinson came to the Cape Fear Literacy Council as a volunteer tutor in 2002. It was a great experience, and she was very pleased to join the staff in 2004. She is now the Executive Director and enjoys working with adult learners and the volunteers who help them reach their goals. Yasmin studied Education and American History at Vassar College and got an MBA with a concentration in Non-Profit Management from Boston University. She worked for education-focused non-profits in rural Utah, Los Angeles, Baltimore, and Boston before moving to Wilmington.