Local program seeks tutors to continue work with adult learners and literacy

Published 11:16 pm Wednesday, March 3, 2021

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A local project that pairs high school students who desire to be teachers with adult learners who want help with literacy skills needs a helping hand.

Adult tutors are needed to work with the adult learners who are part of the faith-based recovery program, Recovery Soldiers Ministry (RSM), in Elizabethton.

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The high school students create specialized literacy packets for each adult learner which are then sent to the adult learners, and tutors are just needed to provide hands-on help for the adult learners as they move through the packets.

The program was born when RSM founder and director, Josh Scalf, approached Alex Campbell, who works at Elizabethton High School, about the literacy needs of some of his residents.

“Josh said he was driving through Elizabethton one day praying about how to get some help for his guys when he passed the high school,” said Campbell. “With a school that big, there has to be someone in there who would help my guys learn how to read,” he thought.

This school year, Campbell began working with teens in a new class for students who wanted to pursue a career in education.

Campbell thought, “What better way for students to learn how to be a teacher than to actually teach?” The students worked to learn all the skills they needed to be a teacher, then applied those skills to evaluating, planning, and creating the materials needed for the program.

The program began last semester with three adult learners and was a huge success.

This semester the program has expanded to six adult learners, so there is a greater need for tutors.

“Success is a good thing,” said Campbell, “but it carries with it challenges as the program has grown”.

There were two tutors last semester who were local college students.

“They did an amazing job,” said Campbell, “it is just that we need more help because we are working with more learners this semester.”

The adult learners experienced tremendous success last semester as learners were able to progress several academic letter grades in only three months.

“Until now, I never really thought about trying to learn, until they started helping me, and I have come a long way with it. I just want to be a better daddy for my son,” said Bill, one of the adult learners.

Another learner, Jared, recalled, “It was kind of mind-blowing that this is high schoolers, but I wasn’t reading on a high school level, so they had to be able to help me out.”

Campbell fondly recounts, “We had one learner who wrote his first letter. It was so touching. Just to realize that you helped someone be able to write a Christmas card to his mother or a birthday letter to his kids is so powerful.

“What we are giving these men is not just some reading worksheets, but a new lease on life. One student did not even know all of the letters in the alphabet, but he was reading sentences by the end,” Campbell continued.

“Now, every time I see him, he asks when we are starting back,” says Campbell.

“He just wants to read so badly. I think he realizes his life is on hold: no job applications, no bank account, and no driver’s license until he learns these basic skills,” Campbell mused.

“I think it’s pretty cool that they are doing something like this to help people. I mean, it is changing a lot of people,” said Fred, one of the adult learners. “This is something they need to keep doing,” he added.

But unless they find a few tutors who are willing to help by donating just a couple of hours per week, the students will not be able to continue their work.

The literacy sessions last from 6:30 until 8:30 pm on Mondays and Tuesdays. Tutors do not have to be available both days but are asked to be available for the two hours for each day they volunteer.

No prior experience or educational background is required other than a desire to help and the ability to read and write. There are a variety of skill levels of readers in the program, so any person who feels adequate in their literacy skills can be a huge help as a tutor.

Campbell says he has reached out to all of the community contacts that he knows, but so far has not been able to secure additional tutors.

He says this is his last effort to bring in a few more people required to help this program reach all of those in need.

“I told Josh to keep praying. We need help finding these tutors. This is someone’s chance to change a life, all it takes is a little bit of free time.” Campbell pleaded.

Campbell can be contacted by email at alex.campbell@ecschools.net or by phone at 547-810 ext. 1551.