Meet new people and make a difference in the lives of Champaign-Urbana residents
Would you like to meet people who hail from the other side of the world as well as from right here in East Central Illinois? More important, would you like to make a concrete difference in a person’s life just through giving your time?
Consider volunteering as a tutor with Project READ, which has provided quality educational support to adult learners in the area since 1984. It is supported by an Illinois State Library literacy grant together with Parkland College Adult Education.
“Not many activities allow you the satisfaction of knowing you’ve helped someone each week as well as building an increasingly positive relationship over the long term,” said Dr. Amanda Gray, Project READ’s program manager. “Project READ tutors gain satisfaction from helping others, and they make new friends who are also giving and talented people with a global consciousness.”
More than 22 percent of Illinois residents speak a language other than English at home. Project READ learners working on improving their English might want to understand their child’s teacher, communicate at the pharmacy or hospital, or get a better job. More than 5 percent of adults in Illinois have under a ninth-grade education, and the current high school graduation rate in the state is only 85 percent. By working on basic reading and math skills, Project READ learners might aim to pass a job test or GED, manage a household budget, help their child with homework, or even read with their child for the first time.
Project READ learners are diverse; aged 17-80+, they are professionals, unemployed folks, laborers, and stay-at-home parents. Some loved school, some dreaded it, and some did not have the opportunity to attend school at all. All of them have decided to put time and energy into learning at this point in their lives. They bring the value of their experiences and motivations to the learning process.
Project READ needs new volunteer tutors. According to Dr. Gray, the group is aiming to add 120 new tutors this year. Tutors are asked to commit to 14 hours of in-person and on-line training; this training can be customized to each volunteer’s interests and experience. Most tutors will then match 1:1 with a learner for approximately two hours a week (ideally for a year) to provide free tutoring in basic literacy, basic math, or English as a second language (ESL). Tutors and learners meet regularly at the Champaign Public Library, The Urbana Free Library, Wesley Food Pantry, Champaign Unit 4 Schools, CU FAIR, Rantoul Public Library, and many other public places in our community and throughout the multi-county area served by Parkland. In this way, tutors can serve in a location convenient to their geographical location.
The spirit of cooperation fostered by Project READ tutors and learners strengthens our entire community. Many tutors say the time they spend tutoring is the most rewarding part of their week! As a learner recently wrote to their tutor, ”I want to say thank you for your help … Thanks to you I can communicate better and my life here is now easier than before.”
To learn more or get started, sign up for an “Intro to Tutoring” session. See this link for upcoming session dates, many during February and March. The intro training counts toward the required 14 hours and will explain more about Project READ and answer prospective tutors’ questions. If your group is interested, Project READ can schedule an Intro Session by request.
If tutoring isn’t your thing, Project READ has a variety of alternative needs. Contact them at (217) 353-2662 or by email to find out about other ways you can help:
- Become a volunteer host (non-tutoring) at a tutoring site
- Volunteer at the Wesley tutoring site childcare area
- Sponsor a tutoring site childcare worker — just $40 for one evening
- Make a general donation to Project READ online through the Parkland College Foundation (please indicate “Project READ” as the recipient of your gift)
- Donate gift cards or ‘swag’ for Project READ tutor appreciation/learner incentives
Learn more about ways to volunteer around Champaign-Urbana