February 12, 2018, Adrian, Michigan – Ten years of service and making a positive impact on the lives of more than 1,100 adults: these are milestones worth celebrating. Adrian Rea Literacy Center did just that on February 6 as current and former staff members, Board members, tutors, adult learners, families and the general public gathered for an open house.
The three-hour event gave participants the opportunity to tour the facility on the ground floor of the former St. Joseph Academy building, enjoy refreshments, enter a drawing for door prizes, and share stories and memories with one another.
Beyond this large, public celebration were quieter, more private celebrations throughout the years as adult learners improved on their English skills and met their goals: becoming U.S. citizens, passing their GED tests, going on to college, reading to their children, helping their children with homework, and becoming more confident in their language skills. The Center offers English as a Second Language (ESL) tutoring, as well as tutoring for native English speakers who need to improve their reading and writing skills.
Maria Elena, an adult learner, said she started going to Adrian Rea in 2010 or 2011. Since she was living in the United States, she said, she wanted to understand and speak English. Her family speaks Spanish at home.
Maria Elena said her work at the literacy center has boosted her confidence in speaking English. “I go to [parent-teacher] conferences for my son and understand my doctor,” she said. “I want to understand more. I’m not 100 percent yet, but I’m on the way.”
The 925 volunteer tutors who have served at Adrian Rea over the past 10 years have also benefited. “It was a great experience,” said Sister Angela Susalla, OP, a former tutor. She had been matched with a young man who had come from Mexico as a child and who wanted to improve his reading.
“He really wanted to learn and was coming faithfully,” Sister Angela said. She helped him to learn the sounds of the English language. “It brought me back to my days of teaching school,” she added. Sister Angela had taught first grade for five years, using the phonics method.
A tutor since October 2017, Sister Joan Mehney, OP, has been working with a 21-year-old woman, helping her to prepare for the ACT and ultimately attend college. She had been homeschooled since fifth grade but missed out on subjects such as algebra. The two-hour weekly class is divided into two, with the first hour spent on reading and ACT preparation and the last hour on ACT preparation on the computer.
“We found out that ACT expects students to answer 45 questions in 45 minutes,” Sister Joan explained. Her learner is “nowhere near as quick as she needs to be for the ACT, but she’s getting there,” she said.
In addition, Sister Joan is encouraging her learner to spend more time reading, choosing books or articles that fit her learner’s interest in animals and family stories and discussing the reading with her. “It’s not hard to help, and it’s very satisfying,” Sister Joan said.
During some quiet time after the open house, Sister Carleen Maly, OP, reflected on the highlights of the literacy center’s 10 years. “More than anything else, it’s the growth and expansion of the program,” she said. The center opened in 2008 with 12 adult learners and 15 tutors. This year, Adrian Rea has 129 learners and 110 tutors.
The center outgrew its original site – a small space within the Adrian Dominican Motherhouse – and now takes up much of the ground floor of the former St. Joseph Academy building. The facility includes a large room with 10 learning stations for the one-on-one tutoring sessions; a computer room; a classroom for tutor training workshops and conversation classes; a kitchenette; and staff offices.
“Another highlight is the expansion and growth,” Sister Carleen said. Most students and volunteers come from Adrian, she said, but learners and tutors have also started coming to Adrian Rea Literacy Center from neighboring towns, such as Clayton and Hudson.
Sister Carleen said the literacy center has also started working with local agencies, such as the Migrant Resource Council. “That enables us to connect with agencies throughout the county and state working with migrant, or seasonal, workers.” Many adult learners work in the fields as migrant workers, or in the local dairies.
Adrian Rea is one of seven literacy centers sponsored by the Adrian Dominican Sisters. If you or someone you know would like help in English language skills, or if you would like to volunteer to be a tutor, call Adrian Rea Literacy Center at 517-264-7320.