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Updated: Wednesday, 30 Jan 2013, 5:52 PM CST
Published : Wednesday, 30 Jan 2013, 10:25 AM CST
GREEN BAY - Imagine you are an adult who struggles to read and write. Or, you've moved to Northeast Wisconsin from another country and cannot speak English.
It was a reality for Aleida Campos, who moved to Green Bay from Mexico in 1997. She recalls one of the first moments she realized she needed to learn English. It happened as she struggled to make a doctor appointment with a receptionist who did not understand Spanish.
"She's like, 'I don't understand you people! You have to learn to speak English!,'" said Campos.
Campos says the situation left her uncomfortable. She turned to Literacy Green Bay for help and was enrolled in the Adult Tutoring Program.
Literacy Green Bay was founded in 1981. Since then, it has helped more than 13,000 people learn to speak English or to better their reading and/or writing skills. The organization's Adult Tutoring Program matches students with volunteers, who work together one-on-one.
"We serve any adults that need to study English or that maybe for some reason did not do well in school the first time around," said Shelley Karnz, manager of the Adult Tutoring Program. "We have students here who are 18 and we have students that are in their 70s."
Campos was matched with Gwen Girard. Girard decided to volunteer as a tutor for Literacy Green Bay after retiring from her teaching career with the Pulaski School District. Over the years, Campos' desire to learn English fueled her to go even further. Now, nearly a decade after first being paired up, Campos and Girard still meet on a weekly basis.
"When she started, she was at a third-grade level," said Girard. "She's now at the point where we're almost ready to go for the GED."
You don't have to have a teaching background like Girard to become an adult tutor at Literacy Green Bay. Karnz says you only need to know how to speak, read and write English.
Literacy Green Bay hosts at least 5 workshops each year to show volunteers how to tutor adults and what to teach them, based on a curriculum.
The next orientation will be held Wednesday, April 3 at the Literacy Green Bay offices on S. Monroe Ave. for anyone who would like to sign up for the spring workshops. There are two times to choose from on April 3: 10:00 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. Click here for more information.
Currently, at least 50 people enrolled at Literacy Green Bay are on a waiting list to be matched with a tutor.
Karnz says they ask tutors to meet with learners at least 2-3 hours per week. She says most spend at least one year together.
You can also help Literacy Green Bay's mission by making a donation. The program is funded through United Way, various grants and fundraising events. One of its largest fundraising events is the Scrabble Bee on Thursday, Feb. 21 in De Pere. Click here for details.
Literacy Green Bay and Girard have made a big difference in Campos' life. One highlight for Campos includes securing a a human resources job at a local paper company. Campos also successfully made a doctor appointment -- she says, with the same receptionist who once scolded her for her inability to speak English.
"She couldn't believe it," said Campos. "After seeing me with nothing and then coming back and telling her what I needed and how I felt."