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Words and Wisdom: The Literacy Council of Highlands

By Kira Nestle and Regina Vellanti

Still standing

The Literacy Council of Highlands is a nonprofit organization located in North Carolina and is housed in the Peggy Crosby Center, which, interestingly, is an old hospital converted into an office building specifically for nonprofit organizations. Some even say that the basement of the building, which used to be the morgue, is still haunted. Three of the former patient rooms are now individual tutoring rooms, and one conference room is used for student parties and a women’s class. This organization welcomes students from ages four through adulthood, where the oldest student is, surprisingly, 60 years old. 

What they offer

The council provides tutoring for students learning English as a second language as well as individual tutoring for school courses.  Moreover, workshops involving literacy in computers, nutrition, health, automobiles and finances are also available through the organization. Volunteers from the local hospital as well as owners and employees from local businesses offer their time to help tutor literacy in their professions. The GED program offered within the organization is free and partnered with Southwestern Community College and is taught by professors from the college. This program has an extremely high success rate, teaching students mainly in their early twenties. Tutoring English as a Second Language is also partnered with Southwestern Community College and is an all-female night class where the students are provided dinner and have class in the conference room.  The class uses the program Rosetta Stone and each session has a theme, such as “grocery store” or “movies," to help incorporate real-life situations into a fun and educational method.

Children from kindergarten throught he fifth grade walk up the hill from the elementary school to attend sessions from 3:00-4:30 p.m. Although the organization does not diagnose learning disorders, the tutors encourage the students to take an online diagnostic test to determine their specific needs in learning and improving literacy. The computer lab has twelve computers which the students use for 30 minutes. After working with the computers, the students spend time doing arts and crafts and are read aloud to by Laura Miller, the Literacy Council’s events coordinator.

A success story

The Wilson program is used for individual and adult tutoring. One individual who found the program to be very helpful is the council’s oldest student, who is 60 years old. His story is truly inspiring to anyone who wants to improve his or her literacy. He came to the Literacy Council after his wife passed; she had read the newspaper to him every day throughout their marriage, and he could not read it on his own.  After working with the Wilson program and tutors, he is now able to read on his own and still attends tutoring sessions to perfect his literacy.

Funding and support

Fundraising is very important to nonprofit organizations, and the Literacy Council is consistent with fundraisers by holding their annual formal ball every year. The theme this year is “Black and White and Red All Over.” It will be held in July and will also have a band and live auction. The ball will take place at the farm, and all previous and new donors will be welcome. Last year, the Literacy Council raised between four and five thousand dollars to help improve their facilities. Every month, Rotary Bingo is hosted by the Literacy Council to raise funds, and on Earth Day they sell conservation books. Every May, a tutor appreciation party is held to thank all the tutors for their time and effort, and every June a donor appreciation party is held to thank all donors for their generous contributions to the Literacy Council.

Services provided by the Literacy Council are free and open to the public. Anyone is welcome to come by at any time seeking help. The council continues to grow with volunteers, students and even locals who just need to pick up on another language for a trip to another country.

These profiles were created by the students in Mary Adams's English 303 (spring 2010) class