Literacy Week Proclaimed, Budget Shortfalls Announced
By Rick Hiduk
Representatives from the Bradford-Wyoming County Literacy Program were on hand for the signing of a proclamation by the Bradford County Commissioners to usher in Literacy Week in Bradford County. During the same meeting, program director Sherry Spencer told the commissioners and others in attendance that the agency has suffered a setback this year due to state budget cuts, and Literacy Program administrators are seeking donations and grants to address the shortfall and to reinstate some programs that have already been cut.
Literacy Program English as a second language instructor Vivian Vannan, who accompanied Spencer at the meeting, introduced one of her star students, Ulisses Orellana of El Salvador, to the commissioners and shared his success story as an example of how the program can benefit both legal workers from foreign countries and the local community.
Orellana, she noted, had participated in ESL classes as an employee of Cargill for 11 years. The classes, which were initially offered at the Cargill plant, have since been conducted at churches in Laceyville and Meshoppen. Vannan explained that Orellana was instrumental in inviting others to the classes and helping to “develop a trust factor” between teacher and students. People who are new to English, Vannan related, can be easily intimidated and are uncomfortable with the notion that others might laugh at their attempts to speak the language. “I think they laugh more at my attempts to speak Spanish,” she joked. Orellana, she added, has played an integral role in “bridging the gap” for her as he dedicated himself to mastering English.
“I’m trying to encourage those guys to not be afraid,” Orellana told the commissioners. He also stressed the need for funds to help people like him, who are taking appropriate steps toward citizenship. Vannan noted that Orellena’s visa status offers a temporary protection afforded to immigrants whose countries of origin are war-torn or poverty stricken. He also stands a better chance of achieving citizenship as a student enrolled in post-secondary training or education, something that will come more easily to Orellena since he achieved his GED in the spring.
“He could have taken the (GED) test in Spanish,” said Vannan, “but he opted to take the English version, and he passed.”
Commissioner Doug McLinko applauded Orellena for his efforts and voiced his support for English language instruction offered by the Literacy Program.
Spencer further detailed the challenges faced by the agency and the desire of its administrators to bring back the ESL classes and provide training for tutors at the new offices at 200 Main St. in Towanda that the Literacy Program has occupied since July 5. She related that, of 134 similar agencies to apply for state funding this year, only 50 were approved.
“That shows you how deep the cuts were,” she remarked. “We’re trying to stay in business, and we appreciate your support.”
In 2010, the Bradford-Wyoming County Literacy Program provided approximately 4,250 hours of instruction for 120 adults and teenagers in both ESL and basic reading classes. The instruction was provided in group settings and on a one-to-one basis. For more information, interested readers may contact Spencer at 570-297-3375.