Partners in Literacy


Partners in Literacy


ESOL classes . . . a student’s biggest helper

Kusima from the Democratic Republic from the Congo was our student reader at Scrabble Challenge. She read one of her “Hear Our Voices” stories, telling of coming to the USA in 2004 and facing challenges with new food, her neighborhood, and especially language. “Fortunately,” she says, “I heard about the ESL classes and they became my biggest helper. There I found people from different countries who had the same problems as I did. It was a big comfort, we learned more and more and the teachers were wonderful and I created more friendships. Now,” she wrote: “my goal is to think more in English . . . This will help me to speak more spontaneously and allow my thoughts in English to be free of the interruption of translation. Then I will feel more open and connected to people.”


Invention is the art of making possible the impossible.

Wille Lawrence, a student in Literacy Volunteers of Greater New Haven’s Basic Literacy program, truly embodies the inventive spirit. He recently was granted U.S. patent No. 10,772,458 — a big number — but Willie’s personal reinvention is even bigger.

Willie’s patented invention is “Coffee-On-the-Go,” his design for a mobile coffee/tea brewing machine, complete with a USB charging outlet.

Getting that patent required hard work and persistence, traits Willie shares with many LV students. But he has demonstrated extraordinary strength and resilience in overcoming the effects of a stroke 17 years ago, followed by another stroke two years later and open heart surgery.

“That’s when I started to believe in love,” he says. “Now my life is bigger than that. So in my eyes, everybody believes you can do it. Just believe!”

During the pandemic, Willie currently uses his LV loaner Chromebook to continue working with his tutors Catherine Miller and Gene Kirsten.

A path to citizenship

Anyone who believes it’s possible to be too old to learn – or volunteer to teach English - need only look at Justina and Bob to know that is not so.

A native of Nigeria, Justina joined us about three years ago when a friend from the Meriden Senior Center, who was a Literacy Volunteers student, convinced her to apply. She has been working hard with us ever since. Her dream is to become an American citizen, and she carries her U.S. civics worksheets with her wherever she goes, so she can pull them out and study at any time and in any place. She is a woman of faith and is quick to credit God with her success and perseverance.

Justina has had several tutors over the years, and currently works with Bob, a veteran tutor of 14 years, who counts citizenship exam preparation among his tutoring specialties. Here they are reading “News for You,” a weekly newsletter geared toward English language learners and a favorite teaching tool of our tutors.