According to Friends of Literacy executive director Teresa Brittain, one in 12 adults in Knox County cannot read, and one in eight do not hold a high school diploma. But the staff and volunteers at Friends of Literacy are working to change those statistics, and they’re doing it at no cost to their students.
“Everything we do is free,” she said. “We even have bus vouchers and vouchers for testing, too. It’s all thanks to our generous donors and supporters. We do a lot of really good work on a really, really small budget, and every donation counts.”
Brittain and Friends of Literacy programs manager Jennifer Riley spoke to Fountain City Town Hall Nov. 13, about existing services and the organization’s need for volunteer tutors. Friends of Literacy has almost 300 students at its Hill Avenue location and satellite sites. Those students include adults working to learn to read, advance their reading level, or studying to take a high school equivalency exam.
While most students working on high school diplomas are in their 20s, reading students tend to be in their 40s, parents seeking the skills they need to help their children with homework. Local satellite locations include Norwood Elementary School as part of the Community Schools programming there, and twice-a-week classes at Fountain City United Methodist Church.
Riley said volunteers are needed at all locations since classes are structured with as much one-on-one time as possible. A teacher gives instruction, then students pair off with volunteer tutors. Math tutors are a particular need, but you don’t have to be a math whiz. A working understanding of 4th grade math is enough. Volunteers must be at least 18 years old, fill out an online application and attend an orientation.
Friends of Literacy meets students where they are, helping them meet goals no matter where they start.
“Some students come to us thinking they’re getting a high school diploma, and we find out they’re reading on a first grade level,” said Riley. “But we’re going to teach you until you’re ready to move on.”
Fountain City Town Hall also honored several students from Gresham Middle School. Receiving an award for citizenship were 8th grader Miranda Foust, 7th grader Layla McNeil and 6th grader Megan Lett. Receiving awards for academic perseverance were 8th grader Denzel Hendricks, 7th grader Xiomara Avila and 6th grader Mikenzie Setzer.