SS Michael and Rose Literacy Program: Caring for the Whole Person
Nestled in the heart of Milwaukee’s vibrant neighborhoods, the parishes of St. Michael’s and St. Rose combined their resources such as priests, a literacy program, and a food pantry to nurture the souls, minds, and bodies of their community, largely southeast Asian and Hispanic.
“We try to address needs beyond just teaching English,” shares Deborah Lindberg, ESL Program Coordinator. The literacy program focuses on the whole person - their family living, medical needs, and employment. Tutors work with adult students so that they can communicate with their children’s teachers, attend medical and dental appointments, and read business mail.
They teach a range of English language skills, including citizenship, in small group and one-to-one instruction. “I really like that we welcome anyone who knocks on the door and asks if they can be taught English,” said Deborah Lindberg.
One day two men knocked on their door and asked if they could learn English, even though they weren’t parishioners. One of them became a U.S. citizen this April. He wants to continue studying so he can learn more conversations in English and get a better job.
After COVID-19 shut down their program from mid-March until July, tutors called students to see how they were doing, dropped off food, clothing, masks, and made sure they weren’t getting sick. Deborah said, “We tried to assist the whole family with clothing, food, and books.”
With the help of Wisconsin Literacy and the Catholic Church Good Shepherd, SS Michael and Rose Literacy Program supplied curriculum books for every adult student to continue their studies at home and some extras for new students. Deborah also contacted the First Book Program to give the children free books too. Book deliveries began in August, with Deborah having the children read to her to make sure they liked the books.
Despite the trials of COVID, adult students continued to work and five students passed their citizenship tests and registered to vote.
SS Michael and Rose’s Literacy Program continues to meet the needs of students. Now that vaccines are available, tutors have called families and told them where they can get their vaccines and why it is important. “Each time something new comes up in the city of Milwaukee that will affect our students and they wouldn’t know how to make the connection, we are trying to connect them,” says Deborah.
This program’s care extends beyond the educational needs of its students to their families, their health, and their general well-being.