Tom’s Big Heart

“Experiencing students’ incremental successes, gains in confidence, and engagement in life is what I valued most as a university educator.”

“That same path of accomplishment is true with adult learning, though student and tutor may meet only a couple of hours each week. I have been given the privilege of working with so many wonderful people. Who wouldn’t be thrilled to help a stroke victim realize his math skills were not diminished, just rusty – then pass a tool-and-dye company test and be asked to join the firm; or help a student with health challenges format her life story, “Sarah Never Gives Up” – a title she created; or work for 12 years with a gentleman who did not read or write because of a disability with word memory, as he learned to read phonetically and pursue interest in his family’s history.

“Other students want to become digitally literate—learn to keyboard proficiently, navigate websites to search for information, apply for work, learn English-as-a-Second-Language and get news from their native country. Rochester is so fortunate in its new Digital Literacy Program, in which I volunteer, which addresses digital needs at sites throughout the city. I’ve learned to be a better teacher and person from program coordinators, fellow tutors, and the students themselves. The human dimension of tutoring—insights, interpretations, finding practices that work—is surprising and humbling.

“Helping, however modestly, to fund adult literacy is another aspect of giving back. Literacy Volunteers is legitimate—certified by the State Department of Education. And, having been a member of a Literacy Voluntees Board of Directors (in Ithaca), I know how limited and fragile annual budgets are – statements of probable hope! Giving annually and at fundraisers helps sustain facility expenses, utilities, lean staffing, training, student intake and testing, education resources, basic supplies, and occasional initiatives.

Those are the reasons I engage with adult literacy—and that turns out to be quite a selfish act. For a few hours a week and some disposable income, I receive back so much more!”

Tom Weiler is a retired Cornell university professor. He recently became a LVR tutor and Digital literacy volunteer navigator. Previously, Tom served as a board member and tutor for the Literacy Volunteers program in Ithaca, New York.

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Eric’s Story

“Digital Literacy volunteers are phenomenal.”

Eric chuckles when he recalls his jail cell. “I had books stacked everywhere on my bed. I spent all my time reading about careers and work, and preparing mentally to get out and get better.”

He eventually left that cell behind, strongly motivated by his hopes and dreams. While living at a halfway house, Eric realized, “I needed to rebuild my life from the ground up.”

Although he was able to get a part-time contract job with the help of a friend, he said it just wasn’t enough. Eric discovered Digital Literacy during a visit to Lincoln Branch Library on Joseph Avenue in Rochester. He spotted the Computer Help Sign and introduced himself to a Digital Literacy volunteer navigator.

The navigator and Empire State College intern, Tricia, worked closely with Eric. By the end of their first session, Eric had a new resume and email account, had applied for several jobs, and explored websites for SUNY schools and civil service jobs.

Over the following months, Tricia and Eric continued working together. Eric learned new computer skills, applied for more jobs, and researched careers. He obtained a Lifeline cell phone, received a driver’s permit and will soon get his license. He also acquired two jobs.

Best of all, Eric now has options. He lives in a home of his choosing, and has decided on a career path. He will be starting Sterile Processing Technician classes at Rochester Educational Opportunity Center in a few months. “I want to be excellent and irreplaceable, so I’m going to study hard and throw everything I have into this career.”

While he trains, Eric will continue working at Community Lutheran Ministries. And, he’s organized a “Board of Directors” for his life. One of the members of his board is Tricia.

“Digital Literacy volunteers are phenomenal, willing to share their talents, and very much appreciated. I plan to continue to use their services, and highly recommend others use them as well.”

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