The Illinois Secretary of State/Illinois State Library Literacy Office awarded a $75,000 Adult Volunteer Literacy Grant to Erie Neighborhood House.
The grant will support the agency’s Community Literacy program, a volunteer-driven initiative that pairs adult learners with tutors in one-on-one and small group settings to develop language and literacy skills.
“Our main goal is to help adult language learners speak, read and write in English,” says Susana Ortiz, Community Literacy program coordinator. “We want our students to be able to express themselves in English, in all types of real-world situations.”
She explains that the program operates at Erie House’s West Town and Little Village locations as well as various sites in between. It consists of 8 levels of instruction; once they achieve language proficiency, students are encouraged to continue their education through the Workforce Development program at Erie House or at one of the local City Colleges of Chicago.
“Our main goal is to help adult language learners speak, read and write in English. We want our students to be able to express themselves in English, in all types of real-world situations.”
– Susana Ortiz, Community Literacy program coordinator
The Illinois Secretary of State allocates funds to community organizations like Erie House to provide instruction to adults who read below the ninth grade level or speak English at a beginning level to improve their basic reading, writing, math or English language proficiency.
It is also focused on increasing civic engagement, encouraging adults who are eligible to vote, learn how to utilize services available through public libraries and become more active members of the community.
To meet the needs of the 150 students her program serves, Ortiz manages more than 100 volunteers each year, equipping them with training and support to ensure they’re able to succeed as tutors. These volunteers commit to tutoring for 2 hours a week and play an integral role in the progress their students make.
“Our Community Literacy program offers a unique space for people to meet, interact and develop friendships,” says Kirstin Chernawsky, executive director at Erie House. “We’re grateful for the opportunity to provide this sort of second home for so many different folks in our community and at the same time equip them to build increased well-being through language and literacy development.”
For more information about enrolling in or volunteering with the Community Literacy program at Erie House, please visit www.eriehouse.org/communityliteracy.