Oakland Literacy Council implements new training program to recruit students


Courtesy of Lynn Golodner

Nancy Lopez works with Kevin Rodriguez to improve his English.

A new online tutor training program is now being offered to volunteers of the Oakland Literacy Council.

This course will make the process of becoming a tutor easier to those interested in helping adults improve their English skills.

The Oakland Literacy Council (OLC) is a nonprofit organization offered through Oakland County that provides free one-on-one tutoring for adults in either basic literacy or English as a second language. Affiliates help with reading, writing and conversational English, according to the website.

Volunteers can help these adults to improve their quality of life, giving them the ability to accomplish a variety of things like improve job skills, earn a high school credential, gain citizenship or pass knowledge onto their children to become successful learners. Pairs meet for two hours every week in local places like libraries or coffee shops.

At any point in time, there are about 250 active tutor-and-student duos all over Oakland County, according to a press release.

However, there are over 170,000 Oakland County residents who need help with reading and English language skills.

More volunteers are needed to lessen this gap.

“We are always in need of tutors because there are always more students,” Executive Director Lisa Machesky said.

To recruit more volunteers, the organization is also reaching out to libraries, as well as encouraging college students to make the commitment and take the step to help change someone’s life in this vital way.

Machesky said some students become tutors because they want the experience in order to enter the Peace Corps. Others may be looking at entering into the training and development industry.

The OLC counts on these trained volunteer tutors but knows the initial training needed could be inconvenient.

“The time volunteers had to take out of their busy schedule was one of the biggest barriers we had recruiting new tutors,” said Machesky in a press release.

It is hoped this new program will help.

“Now with the e-learning course, tutors only have to be on site for six hours of training before meeting their student,” Machesky said. “We are hoping that more working adults will be able to become tutors.”

The previous training course took 12 hours over two to three days.

This new course was created specifically for the OLC by Joan Allesee, an instructional designer who used to tutor and train at the organization.

Machesky said Allesee’s background gave her a unique perspective to design this new technology.

“Being a tutor herself, she saw how online, interactive learning could attract and educate new tutors by presenting great content in a new and engaging way,” according to the press release.

There are many benefits to this format, as it is low-cost and users can move at their own pace. The design also helps to increase retention, similar to the way other businesses and educators have been capitalizing on technology to teach.

“This is a ground-breaking piece of technology that will enhance the organization’s ability to recruit tutors,” Allesee said in the press release. “I am so happy that I was able to pitch in a little more to help the OLC continue its wonderful mission in Oakland County.”

Machesky is very aware of the need for this program.

“Literacy is such a fundamental issue related to so many social issues,” she said. “Childhood poverty is closely related to literacy levels of their parents. Oakland County continues to be a destination place for immigrants around the world — immigrants who need to learn English in order to become a part of our society. These issues come together in a one-on-one relationship with real people. Tutoring is a great way to explore the world in a meaningful way.”

The OLC was originally formed in 1984 as a pilot program in extension of libraries, but grew as it became apparent that Oakland County needed adult literacy services, according to the website.

Now, the council also offers some small conversation groups and provides support and ongoing training for their existing tutors.

For more information on the program, call (248) 253-1617 or visit www.oaklandliteracy.com. On the website, click on “Become a Tutor” to take the course and begin the process of being partnered with someone in need of help.