Lisa Davis stands before her six students. “Cer-e-mon-y,” she says loudly and clearly while writing it on a dry erase board.
“And what do we call the party after?” she asks.
One of the student’s faces lights up. “Re..re…re..,” she says, thinking aloud, not quite able to find the word.
Davis writes ‘reception’ on the board, then the phonetic spelling, “ree-sep-shun.” As the students sound it out, she nods encouragingly.
Davis is a coordinator at Literacy Volunteers of East Bay, and also one of their 176 tutors. LVEB provides free tutoring to 183 students over the age of 18. Half of them are native speakers, while the rest are ELL (English Language Learners.)
“We have the bent of preparing people to be contributors to society by advancing their education,” says Directors Jolene Hamil-Cole, who was a high school English teacher in a previous incarnation.
Hamil-Cole says they respond to community need, whether that be GED classes, Citizenship prep classes, or “English in the Workplace” classes. Currently they are developing a class in Bristol for native Portuguese speakers.
Warren resident Tom Padwa has been a literacy tutor since the early 1990s. Padwa, who struggled in school as a teenager, specializes in helping native English speakers.
“I was a GED student myself. High school didn’t work for me,” he says. “I knew there were people out there like me who wanted to get their diploma and I wanted to help them.”
Padwa says watching the wonder in a student’s eyes when they understand something is what keeps him coming back. He and the other volunteers at LVEB have countless success stories of students who have gone on to more empowered circumstances, both in work and in their relationships.
All LVEB tutors are required attend a 16-hour accredited training session before they start. Other than that, there are no prior skills or degrees necessary. Tutors also have the option to attend any number of in-service trainings and professional development seminars, though they aren’t required. Once training is complete, tutors and students are matched up based on interviews and tests that ensure compatibility. On average, tutors volunteer about one hour a week.
24 year-old Yuan, a LVEB student who moved to Bristol 10 months ago from China, sums it up nicely. “It’s comfortable. Every teacher – very nice, very kind,” he says. “For me, if I think it’s interesting I will learn fast….It’s interesting.”
To find out more about LVEB visit their website here.