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“Successes happen every day”

“Successes happen every day”

Stevens Point is known for being friendly to newcomers, says Joe Schauer, director of Portage County Literacy Council. Established in 1986, the Council welcomes adult learners from near and far, including refugees and migrant workers in addition to employees of local businesses who were born in Wisconsin and who may have learning disabilities or don’t know English well.

Most learners seek to improve their English skills. Others are pursuing American citizenship or their GED. Learners range in age from 18 (typically children of current learners) to 70, with the majority between age 30 and 50. Group classes and one-on-one tutoring are offered both in person and online.

While success is a daily occurrence, according to Joe, some stand out. “We had a refugee family come person by person. They were originally from the Congo and lived in a refugee camp for 15 years. The adult son came first, and he started to get established. Then his sisters came and finally his mother with young children. We set them up with in-person classes and matched a tutor with the adults. Now they’ve been here for about a year and a half, and the children are in school. The adults all have jobs. They’re actively improving every week. Our tutor and her family have become friends with this family,” he says. “Success really lies in the connection between the tutor and the learner.”

Wisconsin Literacy supports every aspect of the Council’s program, Joe says. Grants obtained through Wisconsin Literacy are vital, as are the online resources for learners; tutor training; in-class resources and individual support. Joe also greatly values access to learning from other literacy councils around the state through Wisconsin Literacy. He would like to especially thank Wisconsin Literacy employees Anna Bierer, Robyn Hallett and Kelly Rush.

Like any organization, the Council faces some challenges. These include recruiting and retaining tutors and learners. Funding can also be a challenge, but “we’re pretty good with that,” he says, because of Wisconsin Literacy and the generosity of local contributors.