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The following article was published in the Kenosha News on December 11, 2016.

Literacy council celebrates students’ success

Anthology feature adult learners’ works

By Christine A. Verstraete 

Buttons were bursting with pride Saturday as a dozen Kenosha Literacy Council students read their published essays as part of the annual anthology release and winter celebration held at the Woman’s Club of Kenosha.

The 15th annual KLC anthology showcases nearly 60 stories written by adults enrolled in the literary program.

“Every year we have a different group of students with different stories,” said KLC Director Cheryl Hernandez. “The book is always a collection of the hard work of the students, tutors and staff.”

This year’s anthology includes essay based on three themes: “Be Inspired,” “Celebrate Good Times” and “Exploring My Community.”

They were written by adult learners from Asia, Europe and Mexico who are working to improve their English reading and speaking skills, along with U.S. students who want to improve their skills for work or to get their GED.

“The students are so inspiring,” said program coordinator Cassie Christianson. “They really want to make you want to do more in your everyday life. You can do anything, but you need to read and write.”


Important to students

This is the third year Carmen Surratt, 42, who wrote about her native Mexico’s “15 Years Birthday Celebrations,” has been in the program.

“I want to continue to study,” she said. “If I want to live in this country, I have to take English.”

Claudia De La Pena, also from Mexico, was thrilled when she was called to read her essay, “Inspired.”

“I love this,” she said. “For me this is very special. I see everyone — my friends, my teachers, my son and daughter, my stepdaughter. This is great.”

It also meant a lot to Tin Win, who’s been in the program six years and wants “to make life better.”

Win, who came to the U.S. in 2007 from Myanmar, wrote about buying his first home. His wife Bway Paw Win also wrote about people who inspired her, including her sponsors, who helped her come to this country, her husband’s teacher and her tutor.

Susana Jamaica, 32, who wrote about her friend Bobby, came to the U.S. from Mexico in 2013 and enrolled in the literacy program 2½ years ago.

“The important thing is I can talk with other people, with my son’s teacher and doctor, be able to do my work, and I can make friends,” she said.


Still learning

The program includes students who have been in the program for many years, but continue to improve their skills.

Maria Dewsbury, who came to the U.S. from Spain 20 years ago, has been in the literacy program for five years and in the anthology four times.

“I didn’t know any English, “she said. “I never wanted to stand up there and read before. When I was practicing the first time, I started crying. Now I want to speak about the literacy council.”

Being in the program and in the anthology also meant a lot to Honxiang (Lisa) Fitzgerald, who came to the U.S. from China in 2009. She’s been in the program four years.

“It means a lot to me, for my personal reasons, to improve my English, to learn,” she said.


Special for tutors

The learning process is special to the tutors as well.

Jean Weisner of Pleasant Prairie has been working with Gary Noosband, 52, since 2008, helping him improve his reading from special education level to mastering classics like “Moby Dick.”

Weisner, 76, said she loves being able to help someone who has also become a friend.

“I have children his age,” she said. “I love to read and to help people to read.”


Kenosha Literacy Council, by the numbers

n 559 adult learners in council programs between July 2015 and June 2016.n 40 countries represented by the studentsn 215 trained volunteer tutors, July 2015 to June 2016n 15,219 hours of literacy education in the same time periodn 80 percent of adult learners come from outside the U.S. n 60 percent of adult learners are female.

The Kenosha Literacy Council offers a variety of programs including drop-in and one-on-one tutoring, small group classes, tutor training, plus classes in civics, citizenship preparation, literacy computer work and related job search skills.

The council is located at Uptown Library, 2419 63rd St., 262-654-7323.

Support KLC's life changing education programs.


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