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Literacy students achieve success, more tutors needed

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English isn’t just a second language; to some, it’s also a second chance.

Literacy of Northern New York needs more volunteers to become literacy tutors to help give more people chances to reach their educational, family and career goals.

Since she started attending one-on-one English as a Second Language tutoring sessions on and off with the agency since 2005, Wen J. Chen has improved both her English speaking and customer service skills at her two restaurants near Fort Drum. Although she studied writing and reading English while in school in China, Ms. Chen said, her English speaking skills needed improvement when she came to the United States.

“If you want to live in the U.S., English is very important,” she said. “You have to walk out and talk to people. I was a nurse in China. I’d like to go back to school in the future; I’d like to go for business administration.”

She and her family operate L&L Hawaiian Barbecue and Family World, both in Evans Mills. The Watertown resident said she now feels more comfortable talking with people in English since she has received help through the nonprofit agency, located on the third floor of the Key Bank Building at 200 Washington St.

Executive Director M. Cecilia Brock said the agency needs the most tutors in Jefferson County, especially around Watertown, Fort Drum and Carthage. Minimum requirements for tutors include having a high school diploma and successfully completing a tutor training session.

A tutor training orientation will take place from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in the third-floor conference room of the Key Bank Building, just down the hall from the Literacy of Northern New York office.

It is recommended that tutors work a minimum of two hours per week with their student. Many work beyond that, Mrs. Brock said.

Djennie Bellabre, a Haitian native, said she has worked with tutor Weslie W. McLaughlin for more than a year. Her progress has led to independence, she said. She no longer has to rely on her husband to accompany her to doctor appointments or to do simple reading for her, such as medicine or food labels.

Her native languages are Haitian Creole and French, but after working with Mrs. McLaughlin, Mrs. Bellabre said, she is more comfortable speaking, reading and writing English. She even has encouraged her co-workers to sign up for the free Literacy of Northern New York tutor services.

Mrs. McLaughlin, who is retired from the Jefferson County Department of Social Services, said Mrs. Bellabre’s dedication has resulted in her passing her citizenship test; she will be sworn in as a U.S. citizen Sept. 19 in Syracuse. She said she will help Mrs. Bellabre study for her driver’s permit test.

“She’s more outgoing because she’s more confident,” Mrs. McLaughlin said.

Mrs. Brock said that after Tuesday’s orientation, a four-session training course will be held for Jefferson County. A similar event will occur in Lewis County next month. An orientation will be held Saturday for St. Lawrence County. For information on specific training sessions, people may call the agency at 782-4270.

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