Monday, March 15, 2010

Literacy Volunteers of Rochester Interview with John Williams

Today we are speaking with John Williams, Development Director at Literacy Volunteers of Rochester.

1. John, tell us a little bit about Literacy Volunteers.

Literacy Volunteers of Rochester, Inc. (LVR) is an organization of trained volunteers, dedicated to providing one-to-one or small group tutoring to functionally illiterate adults and English instruction for speakers of other languages in the greater Rochester, New York area.

LVR , which is 45 years old, provides assistance to both non-native speakers and native speakers who are considered low-literate (which means that they read at a 9th grade level or lower). They are matched with a trained tutor and learn either one-on-one or in a small group setting.

2. How did Literacy Volunteers team up with the MVP Health Care Little Buddies Series at The Little?

As a former Little board member, I knew that one of The Little’s missions was to provide educational opportunities. It seemed like a natural fit to bring literacy needs and educational opportunities together. Beginning three years ago, LVR decided to become a film sponsor for screenings that were a good fit for literacy. The first year we sponsored Akeelah and the Bee about a young girl from South Los Angeles who tries to make it to the National Spelling Bee. It has been a rewarding partnership—one that has helped bring several new tutors to LVR.

This past year, LVR awarded our Friend of Literacy Award to The Little because of its advocacy for education, as evidenced by hosting and supporting the presentation of films and discussions about important community issues.

3. What are some success stories LVR can share with our readers?

Here is one example of the work our organization and volunteers do on a regular basis. Carmen is an immigrant in the United States who worked with her LVR tutor to master the English language. After completing her LVR citizenship classes and improving her English skills, she was able to become a US Citizen. She also received her driver’s license on the same day! That’s pretty amazing when you stop to think about it.

LVR is learner-centered, so we help learners achieve their particular goals. Some people are looking for help with on the job materials they need to read and understand. Some just want to read their children goodnight stories in English.

Imagine the feeling of satisfaction that comes from helping another person learn to read, write, or speak English. It is a life-changing gift to share.

4. How can people become involved with LVR?

Potential volunteers can call our main phone number at 585-473-3030. You begin your volunteer journey with a one hour preview session to learn more about tutor opportunities. We ask that you commit to working with a learner for two hours each week for the duration of one year.

Potential learners should call 585-473-3030 to set up an appointment for a skill evaluation. Once we determine the learner’s skill level and understand the learner’s goals, an appropriate learner/tutor match can be made.

The learner/ tutor experience is an interesting and educational journey for both parties. It is also an opportunity for the tutor to positively impact the community in which he or she lives and for the learner to engage more fully in the workplace and the community. Our motto is “Open a new chapter in someone’s life”. We feel that this encapsulates what happens for both tutors and learners as they work together.

5. Since the days of George Eastman, Rochester has been a hotspot for philanthropy. What is your personal take on the role of non-profits in the Rochester community today?

Non-profits provide an essential group of resources in the greater Rochester area. Their vitality helps distinguish Rochester from other mid-sized communities. This region is blessed to have a community consciousness where giving back is considered a privilege. This spirit of generosity allows our community to address integral needs for all citizens – and makes me proud to live in Rochester!

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