South County Vision Literacy helps adults improve basic skills

South County Vision Literacy helps adults improve basic
Gilroy – For an American-born and bred adult that first step is quite a challenge. It means admitting to yourself that somehow basic reading, writing and math skills slipped through your fingers.

“It’s a real stigma to come through our doorway,” said Judy Walko, associate manger, South County Vision Literacy.

That’s why some of the men and women who show up at the Martin Street center don’t return a second time, or, at least, don’t come back for a while. But on the other side stand the English learners who aren’t embarrassed to seek help. They’re just trying to learn a second language, said Walko.

Those students, or what the center refers to as learners, sometimes fall into both categories, meaning they never learned to read and/or write in their native language.

Adults who do stick around take an assessment test first and then are matched up with tutors. The trained volunteers provide tutoring in basic reading, writing, spelling and math. Very basic “at a really low level” computer skills also are taught.

Walko pointed out that providing such basic computer instructions is essential.

“We fit a need that a lot of other people don’t,” she said.

Vision Literacy, which is funded through various sources including the Santa Clara County Library, California library and many grants, just celebrated its 20th year of business Friday.

The business has been offering free English-as-a-Second-Language classes in the recreation center at the Gilroy Apartments, near South Valley Middle School, for about six years.

The class is comprised of mostly Hispanic women who recently immigrated to the U.S. and live in the low-income apartment complex, said Walko. But the class is open to all, not only residents of the complex. Currently the center, at both the Martin Street and Gilroy Apartment locales, serves between 35 and 40 locals.

During her 11-year tenure Walko has watched many types of people enter through the Vision Literacy door. Some of the individuals own their own business and have very poor reading and writing skills. Many are native Spanish speakers.

The center is always looking for volunteers. Walko said she requests a minimum commitment of two hours a week and six months, from both volunteers and students.

The next tutoring training session will be staged on Jan. 14 from 10am to 4pm. Call ahead to reserve a space at 848-5366.

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