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Mountain Reads tutors help residents develop language skills

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After learning of mountain area residents  who couldn't fill out job applications because they lacked English language skills, a group of volunteers formed the Mountain Reads program.

Since the program started last year, the tutors have worked with several individuals, helping them improve their ability to speak, read and write. Now the group is seeking more participants for Mountain Reads, which area Rotary clubs sponsor.

“We’re hoping to hear from someone else,” said Carol Carper of Mountain Reads. “We do want more clients. We will take more tutors.”

Although Mountain Reads receives referrals from Evergreen Christian Outreach and the Mountain Resource Center in Conifer, getting the word out to the community is sometimes a challenge, Carper said. Some clients learn about the literacy program through friends who have read about it, she added.

Before they work with clients, tutors receive training from group members, many of whom are retired teachers.

When a potential client asks for assistance, the tutors give him a test to determine his level of skill in phonics, word recognition and other abilities, Carper said. The tutors also talk with people to find out what they want to learn.

“The client defines his own need,” she said.

Tutors work with clients once or twice weekly in 90-minute sessions using libraries, restaurants and churches as meeting places. Clients can learn reading, writing and math skills, and also have the opportunity to receive a GED.

Many of the people whom the tutors help are seeking employment, Carper said.

Conifer resident Rinny Harrigan is appreciative of the assistance she has received from Mountain Reads.

“They were so helpful. I’m so blessed to have found them,” Harrigan said.

A native of Indonesia who is now a U.S. citizen, Harrigan said she'd forgotten much of the English she learned as a student in her country.

Although she is employed, Harrigan said she would like to move on to the next level of her career. Becoming more proficient in English will help her attain this goal, she said.

“I really would like to improve my English,” Harrigan said.

Finding financial support

While helping train tutors and working with clients, Carper also is focused on a fund-raising initiative for Mountain Reads.

The Evergreen Rotary Club has donated $1,400 to the program for essential educational materials. And Carper is seeking an additional $7,000 through a grant she is submitting to the Mountain Foothills and Evergreen Rotary organizations.

Mountain Reads volunteers are also planning fund-raisers, including participation in the annual golf tournament of the Evergreen Rotary Club.

“This is an entirely volunteer program ably led by Diane Lange,” Carper said. “A core component of the program is the value of a caring connection between tutor and client, as many who access the services have had negative experiences with education.”

Mountain Reads currently has 12 tutors working with clients. Volunteers are asked for a six-month commitment after receiving training. A training session is under way, and another will be offered in mid-May.

Space for training sessions, board meetings and materials has been donated by Jerry Agee and Judy O’Brien of the Raven’s Wood office complex in Evergreen.

More information is available at www.mountainreads.org.

Contact Sandy Barnes at sandy@evergreenco.com.