Literacy for Life Recognizes Volunteers, Learners in Historic Triangle Community

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The room was packed at the Literacy for Life Celebration of Lifelong Learning last Monday afternoon.
The room was packed at the Literacy for Life Celebration of Lifelong Learning last Monday afternoon. (Courtesy of Literacy for Life)

Literacy for Life recognized the hard work of 272 tutors and 715 learners who have been involved with the organization over the past year.

The nonprofit hosted its Celebration of Lifelong Learning on Monday at the College of William & Mary’s School of Education.

Since its creation in 1975, Literacy for Life has been dedicated to helping marginalized members of the Historic Triangle area build literacy skills and take control of their careers, education and health.

The Literacy for Life headquarters has improved dramatically in recent years with its opening in the School of Education. This space, which includes private offices, a classroom, a computer lab and a large room full of cubicles to facilitate one-on-one tutoring, represents a marked improvement over the original facilities in the old School of Education building.

With these updated workspaces and resources, Literacy for Life has been able to continue to increase its offerings, which now include not only reading and writing classes but also government and civics classes, computer literacy classes, money management classes, career readiness classes, GED preparation classes and health literacy classes.

All of these programs share a common goal of helping both the individual and the community by increasing literacy skills.

“Many people don’t realize that what we do actually address both sides of the issues. For example, while it’s obvious that offering health literacy programs is good for patients who want to take control of their health, it also benefits the larger economy when those patients know how to appropriately use the resources available to them,” said Allison Lenthall, development coordinator at Literacy for Life.

With as much as Literacy for Life has going on these days, it takes many dedicated volunteers to make the organization run smoothly. One such volunteer, Rick Ivey, was recognized at Monday’s ceremony as the recipient of the 2015 Outstanding Volunteer Service Award.

Ivey joined Literacy for Life almost three years ago when he saw a testimonial about the organization in Next Door Neighbor magazine and was moved to get involved. For the past two years he has taught U.S. history and civics classes, one of Literacy for Life’s most popular offerings.

“This class is so popular because it attracts not only people who are new to our country and still learning the language, but also native English speakers who want to learn more about our history,” Lenthall said.

Ivey has gotten tremendous satisfaction from getting to teach in a “truly a multicultural classroom,” and recently he has even taken on teaching one of Literacy for Life’s newest classes, which focuses on work force readiness.

“We emphasize job skills like writing a resume and how to have a successful interview,” Ivey says. According to him, in recent years the state of Virginia has begun emphasizing the need to offer more training in these types of skills, which is what inspired the creation of this particular class.

As for what keeps him so involved, Ivey’s big take-away is “seeing and feeling tangible results” when his students make progress. In the past year, Literacy for Life has helped 11 learners become naturalized U.S. citizens.

“Few things are more heart-warming than seeing a student you’ve worked with take the oath of citizenship,” he said.

His extensive involvement with and commitment to the goals of Literacy for Life are what led Ivey to be selected as this year’s Outstanding Volunteer Service Award.

“I am humbled by this award,” Ivey said. “Literacy for Life is an extraordinary organization making a huge difference in our community. I am proud to be a member of that team.”