Family Literacy Program affects generations
Jose Bautista works in a warehouse where his supervisors and many of his coworkers speak only English. Before enrolling in ESL classes through LearningQuest’s Family Literacy program, he avoided speaking to his coworkers and supervisors so they wouldn’t know how poor his English was. With hard work and dedication—driving 1-1/2 hours to attend classes after a 10-hour workday—Jose improved his communication skills and now supervises 15 employees. He Jose has become a leader at work, with increased confidence and a strong sense of pride in his accomplishments, thanks to LearningQuest. The Family Literacy program currently serves adult learners in Riverbank and Modesto. Recognizing that parents are a child’s first and best teacher, the program is designed for adults to help them learn or improve their English skills with the focus on learning English so they can help their children succeed in school.“Parents who attend our ESL classes are usually there for one of two reasons,” says program director Kelly Nery. “They want to learn English to better help their children with homework and communicate with their teachers, or to learn English to help them get a job or promotion.”
With poor English skills, parents are unable to help their children with homework, or even with the basic skills to help prepare them to enter school. The program provides childcare, so parents are able to bring their kids along while they attend their ESL classes. “We don’t just babysit their kids while the parents go to class, but we work with the kids and help them be prepared and be successful in the education” says Nery. “A majority of the children in our program are not enrolled in other pre-school programs, such as Head Start. For some we are the only preparation they have before entering kindergarten.”
Nery, who has been with LearningQuest since 2008, served as program manager of the library adult literacy program, matching volunteer tutors with students for individualized instruction and coordinating training sessions for volunteer tutors. “My experience working at LearningQuest has made me realize that if you help adult students meet their goals it improves the quality of life of the whole family,” she says. As director of the Family Literacy program, Nery has been able to use her experiences to develop the program to its full potential. “Our staff members work closely together to change our students’ lives through literacy.”
Nery acknowledges that funding is sometimes a challenge. Schools don’t often devote money to adult education, so LearningQuest must secure funding through grants and donations. Uncertain funding sometimes makes it difficult to plan for the future. “At times, we have had to close a site for a time, which makes it hard when we reopen because we have to start all over again with recruitment,” says Nery.
The Family Literacy program often utilizes volunteers in the childcare program. At times, up to 100 children ages 3 to 12 have been enrolled and with only three to four staff members, volunteers are especially important to ensure a successful program. Volunteers are also utilized in the classroom to help students who are struggling and need more one-on-one attention.
Family Literacy student Laura Martinez is another individual who has benefited from the program:
When I got to this country I did not think it was necessary to speak English but things happened that made me realize just how important learning English is. For example, communicating with your children’s teachers. When I moved to Riverbank, the first thing I did was ask if there were any English classes. When they told me yes, I gave myself a goal to complete the English classes. I did not have a car and since the classes start in the fall and go through winter, it was very difficult for me because when I started in 2007, I already had a 5 year old son who was in kindergarten, a 3 year old and a 2 month old baby. There were days when it would rain and I would think about not going to class but I would remember about that goal I had set and the promise I had made. So I would get my children ready and I would walk to class.
Martinez completed beginning, intermediate and advanced ESL classes and now volunteers in LearningQuest’s beginning ESL class, helping to teach the alphabet to students and to read and write in English.
“Some of our students have waited years in this country to begin to try and learn the language, not because they are lazy but because of fear,” says Nery. “I have learned through my students’ experiences that it is never too late to work for your dreams and that hard work pays off.”
To learn more about the Family Literacy ESL program or to volunteer, contact Program Director Kelly Nery at (209) 522-0656 ext. 114 or firstname.lastname@example.org