by Jamie Paustian
If you’ve ever traveled to a foreign country where you don’t speak the language, you know firsthand just how intimidating it can be. You are challenged while ordering food at a restaurant, communicating with cab drivers, or just asking where the bathroom is. Now, imagine living that reality all the time - at work, at school, or when trying to build relationships with new people.
That struggle is the daily reality of many immigrants to the United States. Luckily, there are incredible resources available for people who hope to assimilate, such as the Literacy Council of Sheboygan County. Founded in 1987, the Literacy Council of Sheboygan County is now under the Family Resource Center of Sheboygan County.
The council is an international touchstone in the community, helping adults feel more at home. They provide one-on-one tutoring to students and partner with Lakeshore Technical College (LTC) to teach U.S. Citizenship and group Workplace Literacy classes. They served 98% English Language Learners in 2020 with students coming from 23 different countries and speaking 12 different languages.
Learning to read, write, and converse in English can be a slow process. Students like Degly can work with a tutor for many years to improve their conversation skills, get promotions, and become U.S. Citizens. Larry, his tutor, introduced Degly to the intricacies of American football and bowling to build his conversation skills and have fun at the same time. Degly’s story is a fantastic reminder that immigrants want to belong culturally and socially, as well.
The Literacy Council of Sheboygan County creates ties and connections to the community. They are a resource for English Language Learners to integrate into American society and culture, obtain their GED, pass their driver’s license test, become U.S. citizens, learn to read and write in English, obtain employment and excel at their place of work.
In March of 2020, the Literacy Council of Sheboygan County faced new challenges when their main tutoring site closed and many of their volunteers were unable to serve for safety precautions. Nevertheless, they continue to serve their community because the work they are doing is far too important.
Over the past year, the Literacy Council of Sheboygan County has provided new locations for tutoring, stayed in contact with volunteers and students, used grant money to purchase Chromebooks for adult students, and much more to continue supporting English Language Learners in the Sheboygan area.
Local literacy programs need community support more than ever! If you can, volunteer to become a tutor or donate financially. You may not see the effects of the work immediately, but the results of basic literacy training are far-reaching and crucially important for the adults whose lives are impacted through the services.