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Each One Reach One: Celebrating Diversity In Our Community

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

Panelists Dora Merino of Mexico, Thuong Van Ho of Vietnam, and Rose Mayan of Sudan presented their thoughts on learning English.

Panelists Dora Merino of Mexico, Thuong Van Ho of Vietnam, and Rose Mayan of Sudan presented their thoughts on learning English. /Literacy Center of West Michigan

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Former student Sadia Abdi and her tutor Elizabeth Gerritsen attended the event together.

Former student Sadia Abdi and her tutor Elizabeth Gerritsen attended the event together. /Literacy Center of West Michigan

The event was catered by Pikositos--Authentic Mexican Tacos & Salsas.

The event was catered by Pikositos--Authentic Mexican Tacos & Salsas. /Literacy Center of West Michigan

By Lindsay McHolme, Community Literacy Liaison

The Adult Tutoring Program of the Literacy Center of West Michigan hosted its second annual Each One Reach One event on Tuesday evening. The event was designed to inspire attendees by celebrating and embracing the diversity among the Literacy Center's students and tutors.

Attendees feasted on cactus salad and tuna stuffed jalapeño peppers from Pikositos as four seasoned Adult Tutoring Program student panelists shared their stories of how their improved literacy skills have impacted their lives.    

Each student panelist was a participant in the one-on-one volunteer powered tutoring program which focuses on helping adult students meet their reading and English language goals.  Their stories spoke to their determination and hard work in the program, and attested to the fact that tutoring can be infinitely rewarding. 

Tutor Don Jackson sat on the panel for his student, Herb Taylor.  Jackson shared that Taylor was born in Memphis, Tennessee, and moved to Grand Rapids in 1968.  He recently retired from General Motors after 29 years of service, and has been working on his literacy goals of reading the Bible, reading about his grandson in the newspaper, and using the internet.  

Jackson shared that Taylor wrote,  "I can do [everyday literacy activities] by myself now where before I could not."

The remaining three panelists, immigrants from other countries, spoke about their experiences learning English as a Second Language and the differences between their home cultures and the culture in Grand Rapids.

Dora Merino came to the United States from Mexico thirteen years ago, but only recently started learning English.  She currently works in assisted living. At first, speaking in English with her co-workers and patients all day long gave her a headache.  Now, she told the crowd, speaking in her second language is much easier. 

"English is so important if we live in this country," said Merino. "We want to feel independent and free to go to the store and to speak with our kids' teachers."

Thuong Van Ho is Vietnamese and studied in a Buddhist temple for nine years.  He works with youth from the community and has found that he needs to be able to speak in English and to improve his pronunciation in order to connect with the younger generation that has learned to speak English in school. 

Van Ho said, "It has changed my life to speak out for the people. I feel competent."

Rose Mayan immigrated from Sudan four years ago where she spoke more than one language.  Rose is studying for the GED tests right now, and wants to go to college to someday work for the United Nations. 

As Mayan reflected on her experiences in Sudan and learning English with her tutor in Grand Rapids, she said, "When I was little, there was a lot of fighting in my country.  [I want to improve my English because] I want to make a difference in the world.  If you want to do something in this country, it's possible for you to do it." 

Having offered their time and expertise, the tutors of the four panelists rejoiced with their students as they shared how their improved literacy skills have changed their lives. In return, the students expressed a desire to use their unique experiences along with the reading and language skills they have learned with their tutors to enrich the Grand Rapids community.         


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