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Literacy volunteers help wide range of needs

PLATTSBURGH - Looking to do volunteer work in the community? The Literacy Volunteers of Clinton County may have what you're looking for.

A nonprofit organization whose mission is to "empower residents of Clinton County who seek to improve their literacy skills," Literacy Volunteers helps a wide range of needs.

"Literacy encompasses so much," explained program coordinator/data manager Lance LaMora. "Reading, writing spelling, essay composition ... some of the things we take for granted."

Volunteers who become tutors through Literacy Volunteers may also help people with reading mail, filling out applications or becoming computer literate.

"Students come with all different expectations and needs, from learning their ABCs to getting help with simple computer tasks, to getting their citizenship," said LaMora.

Literacy Volunteers also helps people whose primary language is not English. These students participate in the English to Speakers of Other Languages Program, or ESOL.

However, Literacy Volunteers does have requirements of who can become a student.

"We have a population target that we try to reach and those are adults over 18 years old," explained LaMora. "And usually from the first to about the eighth or ninth grade reading level."

Some students who are in the ESOL program are from countries such as the Ukraine, South Korea, China, the Philippines and Georgia. However, it is not necessary to speak the primary languages of those countries to become a tutor.

"In most cases, knowing [the student's] language is not necessary," LaMora said. "We've had students and tutors work together; the tutor that didn't know a word of [the student's] native language, and of course they know very little of the English language."

Even with this minor drawback, LaMora said the student often reaches a level where they are able "to completely and fully function in this society."

But, how do the student and tutor communicate? LaMora explained there are many different tutoring techniques including pointing, pictures, and picture dictionaries. However, to partake in this type of tutoring takes "practice, patience, perseverance, repetition," LaMora added.

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