On March 16, 2020, Literacy DuPage closed its offices, suspending in-person tutoring and in-person support.
Despite these abrupt disruptions, we were committed to remaining operational and providing support for our tutors, students, and staff. We anticipated that the program would have to change, but in no way could predict the changes that would take place over the course of a year. I spoke with Carol Garcia, our Tutor Support Specialist, about these changes and what she sees for the future.
Literacy DuPage quickly made adjustments and adaptations so tutors and students could continue working together.
With the onset of the pandemic, Carol pointed out that our focus immediately switched from our in-person program to a virtual platform and we began offering weekly newsletters for tutors with community resources, links, lesson plans, and additional materials. We changed our approach for new tutor and student recruitment, including hosting online Meet & Greet and training sessions and conducting virtual assessments for students. Additionally, we began to offer training for tutors to learn different ways to continue communicating with their students (for example, how to navigate WhatsApp and Zoom). Conversation groups have slowly started to bounce back, with six currently meeting via Zoom through partner libraries.
Tutors and students have adjusted to the situation.
Many Literacy DuPage students have been negatively affected by the pandemic, which has left their employment, health, housing, and families in vulnerable positions. Carol has seen that the tutor often becomes an outlet for the student, giving them a place to talk freely, ask questions, and be a resource of information. In response, Carol helps tutors by providing a variety of information and support, including semi-monthly newsletters, workshops, and one-on-one support.
The Health Literacy Initiative
Carol helped create Literacy DuPage's Health Literacy Initiative in 2017, and it is an action to increase healthcare knowledge for adult students. The Health Literacy Initiative begins in tutor training, where tutors address all four language skills (listening, speaking, reading, and writing) in the context of understanding and obtaining healthcare options and discuss how to help students. Over the past year, we have seen that health has become a topic that students want to discuss at every tutoring session.