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Student and Tutor Spotlight: The Literacy Center of West Michigan Adult Tutoring Program

This dispatch was added by one of our Nonprofit Neighbors. It does not represent the editorial voice of The Rapidian or Community Media Center.

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Ronald Jenkins works over forty hours a week as a dedicated Craftsman for Woodsource Inc., rides the bus to and from work, and barely has time for himself.  Although he is passionate about taking care of elderly people, working hard, and cooking, he is not able to invest much of his time and energy into these things.  He knows that if he is able to pass the GED tests, he will have the opportunity to go back to school for Culinary Arts and possibly be able to cook his famous meatloaf for others!  It was this goal that led him to call the Literacy Center of West Michigan for a reading tutor.

Ron’s current tutor, David Gainor, is an Operations Manager for Farmers Insurance Group.  Volunteering for Junior Achievement at Kent Hills Elementary for five years inspired him to volunteer as a tutor for the Adult Tutoring Program.  David longed to tutor an adult with ambitions to succeed because, “It’s rewarding and important.”  Ron was the perfect student for David! 

Ron and David started on a good note in February 2009 when they realized that they had mutual acquaintances.  It was Ron’s first experience with a tutor, and the connection helped them to break the ice.  Since then, they have been meeting two hours weekly, rain or shine, at the Grand Rapids Main Library.  Ron rides the bus after his long work day to attend his lessons and is often tired, but he is determined to achieve his goals.  It helps to know that David will always be there, “I know he’s gonna be here, so I fly right over here.”  David will not miss a session; he enjoys working with Ron, “He’s a good guy.  We’re friends, and we joke around.”   David finds it rewarding to help Ron work toward obtaining his GED, and admits that he is learning new things about the English language as well! 

Ron and David have been reading historical non-fiction, and are interested in books about the Holocaust.  Ron has also discovered that he is a fanatic about the etymology of words.  He remembers the joy he felt when he learned the history of the word boycott, and notes, “I’m learning how to learn.”  Even his handwriting has been improving as he steadily progresses toward his goals!  Ron makes noticeable improvements each lesson, and passing the GED tests seems increasingly tangible.

Ron persists in working hard and proudly recommends the experience to others, “Put your fears aside.  If you want help, this is where you’ll find it at.  There are people who are willing to volunteer their time.  You can’t do it alone.” 

Like Ron, low literacy affects many people in our community.  An overwhelming number of adults in Grand Rapids are functionally illiterate.  They cannot complete everyday tasks such as writing a check, reading a simple menu, or filling out a form at the doctor’s office.

Share your love of reading with an adult who struggles to read and comprehend everyday materials such as job applications and prescription medicine labels.

You can also help area immigrants or refugees adjust to the language and culture of the United States.

To learn more about attending an orientation for potential volunteers or for new students, please call the Literacy Center of West Michigan today at 459-5151!


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