On April 5, 2011, the Social Justice Ministry Team hosted a LiteracyForum to introduce four groups in the city that provide literacy services to their clients. These groups offer a range of services and a range of opportunities to turn our congregation’s focus toward the needs of our fellow citizens.
1. ACHIEVEability, is a social service agency located in west Philly around 60th and Market. Their clients are formerly homeless families who are now housed in one of over 100 properties in the surrounding neighborhoods. The agency serves 130 adults and about 300 children. Adult clients agree to work, go to school, and avail themselves of the agency’s support services such as financial advising, cooking classes, academic tutoring, psychological counseling, parenting, job counseling, etc. as needed. Education, ACHIEVEability believes, offers the best insurance against a life of unemployment or underemployment, and leads to a path out of poverty. There is a need for volunteers to help repair the homes, preparing them for new families, and furnishing them with necessary household items. Tutors are in great demand, for children and adults in all areas of academic study. Adults may be tutored at any time during the day or evening, and children after school hours. Most if not all adults are in two or four year colleges in the area. Requirements for volunteer tutors: a high school diploma, knowledge of the coursework and an ability to work with struggling students. Contact: 215-748-8800
2. The Center for Literacy, offers literacy and numeracy tutoring to adults in a number of locations. The group serves over 4.000 people yearly and there is a constant need for volunteers who are willing to commit up to three hours a week on a regular basis for six months. Tutor training sessions are held monthly, and would-be tutors are taught to build lessons around the specific needs and interests of the learners, mostly at the elementary and secondary levels. Tutoring occurs in small classes housed in the agencies office at 13th and Chestnut (shortly to be moved to 3rd and Market) or one-on-one at mutually agreed upon times and places in public areas in the city. Contact: 215-474-1235
3. The Mayor’s Commission on Literacy offers direct literacy instruction, English for speakers of other languages, Family Literacy, Welfare to Work, and LD and GED support, and coordinates a number of literacy service providers throughout Philadelphia who serve over 30,000 people per year. Tutor training is conducted monthly, as well as training for volunteer coordinators. Requirements: GED or High School. Contact: 215-686-5250
4. The Andrew Jackson School, located at 12th and Federal Streets, is a K-8 public school of about 340 students who come from diverse backgrounds: 12 different languages, 24 differenct countries, as well as native speakers. Most of the families are low income, although the immediate neighborhood is presently undergoing some degree of gentrification. The new principal, Lisa Kaplan, assisted by her intern, MaryBeth Bongiovanni, are reaching out to the community to tap resources and talents that will benefit the children and their families. One of these resources is the program called “Reading Buddies of FirstUU Church”. Volunteers from the group coach readers, listen to the younger grades read from the list of the 100 Book Challenge, help prepare students for the PSSA tests, and form a relationship with their tutees to encourage their progress and broaden their perspectives. The rewards are many on both sides of the partnership. The majority tutor on Wednesday mornings during the Language Arts block from 9:00 – 11:00, although some also go to the school on other days of the week. Another project at the school is organizing and shelving books for the new library which will be dedicated on April 29. The FirstUU congregation participated in very successful drives to provide new books for the library and school supplies to students to start the new school year in the fall. More info and contact: Sharon Tomalin at email@example.com or at church 215-563-3980