Literacy DuPage - Our SPARK shines on!
MARCH 2021
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.
Irene's Story
In our conversation, Carol shared Irene's story, which is an excellent example of health literacy in action. Student Irene joined Literacy DuPage in 2019 to develop her everyday communication skills, to feel more comfortable in her community, to communicate more effectively with her children's teachers, and to get a better job. We matched Irene with tutor Paul. At once, Irene and Paul began to work on developing Irene's confidence and vocabulary. Irene made tremendous gains and strides and was able to get a job in her field of accounting! 
Then, Irene was diagnosed with breast cancer, requiring her to learn a new set of vocabulary to understand her healthcare team and make informed decisions about her treatment options. Irene has been able to achieve these goals with Paul's help! Through the course of her treatment, she has had many questions for her healthcare team. In English, she has been able to ask for clarification, confidently engage in conversation about treatment, and advocate for herself.
The Future of Tutoring at Literacy DuPage
While we anticipate that we will go back to in-person tutoring, possibly in the fall, we also expect some tutors and students will want to continue meeting virtually. We continue to be committed to providing support for everyone in our program.
Literacy DuPage - Our SPARK shines on!
Until next time,

Cassandra Shepherd
Marketing Manager
Literacy DuPage | Email | Website