FCLC celebrates with open house

LIU 12 Franklin County Literacy Council (FCLC) celebrates the organization’s many accomplishments Thursday with an open house and ribbon cutting ceremony.

FCLC is a volunteer organization providing adult education for those struggling with reading and writing or speak English as a second language. They are located at the Coyle Free library, where they provide both live and virtual classes.

Early history

One of the founding FCLC members, Anne Barton, provided insight into the council’s early development.

The early days
ESL Instructor Anne Barton, left, and FCLC program assistant Barbara Williams (Submitted photo)

According to Anne, it first began when Nancy Glen, Barb Noel, and Larry Bresnahan decided to take responsibility for adult literacy education. They knew those who aged out of the existing children’s program still needed more help. So, they brainstormed the initial ideas that would eventually guide the literacy council.

By sheer coincidence, a woman named Lois Strayer moved into the neighborhood from Korea with her husband. She, too, took an interest in the council and joined the others in the Laubach training program. The program is a method of teaching reading and writing through image association.

The four founders taught classes to each other as practice before trying it on their students.

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An early Literacy Council logo

Anne joins the group

Anne happened to see an FCLC ad in the paper around 1987 and thought it sounded interesting. After arriving at the site, she filled out a form, then joined Nancy’s class to help students.

Anne’s first student had a learning issue pertaining to reading and writing. She had many students, all of whom were incredibly bright and skilled. They just needed a bit of extra help regarding literary subjects.

Upon request to join the council, Anne trained to become a teacher and continued her work with them.

As time passed, Nancy moved on while Barb, Anne, and Lois continued to work with the FCLC. They also made gradual adjustments to the program and held interviews for new tutors.

After retiring, Anne received a call from Barb who asked her to fill in as an ESL teacher. Initially, Anne resisted the idea, as she had no prior experience with teaching English as a second language.

However, she eventually gave in, finding it hard to say “no” to Barb.

Anne later taught a class as an ESL teacher, and never regretted giving the course a chance.

While she had previously left the council on a few occasions, she also returned numerous times to offer her assistance. She mentored other tutors along the way.

During the COVID-19 Pandemic, she wasn’t sure she would be able to teach virtually, since she likes the hands-on aspect of the job. Yet, she persevered.

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A tutor’s experiences with the FCLC

Both a current tutor and student were asked to share their experiences with the FCLC.

Pam Garrett thought about tutoring for awhile and eventually found Franklin County’s Literacy Council in the paper. She has now worked with the FCLC for about 5 years, during which she has taught 3 students. Her current student is a man named David, whom she has worked with for about 2 years.

She loves books and taught all three of her kids how to read.

She wants to share her love of books with those who have trouble reading and understanding them, she said. That was one of her motivations for working with the Council.

Overall, Pam has had an excellent experience with FCLC. Her students inspire her. She describes them as very smart and accomplished people.

It has been a pleasure to share her love of reading with them, she said.

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A student’s experiences with the FCLC

Student David R. joined the literacy program because he wanted to improve upon his skills. An accomplished man, he has many talents and experiences. He has worked as a crane operator, side loader, police officer, soldier, and more.

Through FCLC, David learns to read and write, as well as new things about the world.

He has learned more about history, expanded his vocabulary, and had a positive experience with poetry. He compares it to attending an opera. At first, you don’t know what to expect. Then, when you finally have an opportunity to experience it, it’s beautiful.

One particular skill David notes having is survival. He not only survived the life and death situations that are often presented to soldiers and police officers; but he also made the best of what he was given to make it through everyday life.

David was taught by his parents at a young age that nothing in this world is free, and you need to work hard for what you want in life. Everyone in his household had the same responsibilities; and they were expected to respect others.

As such, he worked hard and tried the best he could. Although, some challenges were more difficult than others.

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A struggle with reading and writing

He struggled with reading and writing from early childhood. At the time, special education courses were not an option at his school. He and others with similar problems usually just sat in a small room while their peers laughed and rejected them.

Yet, he was still able to succeed outside of school. David even found work on a farm when he was only 10 years old.

David attended the 8th grade for 2 years, before finally leaving school. He joined a summer work release program and got a job in Letterkenny. He later moved to New York and continued to accumulate new experiences before moving back to Pennsylvania.

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Pushing through

David feels that while survival was rough, the good in his life far outweighs the bad, and he’s doing much better now.

He now wants to learn more from others’ experiences. As such, he thinks that it would be nice to read more books.

In the past, he wouldn’t have admitted that he couldn’t read and write. He used different gimmicks to avoid doing so in the past, such as wrapping a bandage around his hand to avoid filling out paperwork.

As far as practical skills went, he had no trouble performing his jobs’ duties. In fact, he had a talent for replicating others’ performances. If he sees someone doing something, he can also do it. David says that he’s grateful to God for gifting him with this talent, since it helped him succeed in spite of his setbacks.

As he attended different classes, David found others with the same literacy issues as him. Some of them even had good jobs and expensive cars.

Inspired by his tutors

David later met the Council’s Angie Wilt. The way she spoke and explained things helped him open up about his reading and writing problems. He continued to try because of her and the other council members.

Even though there are days when he doesn’t want to attend class, he still comes in because of his beliefs and the support he has received from his mentors at the Council.

With the help of FCLC, he no longer feels the hopelessness associated with his reading and writing problems.

You never know what your skills really are until you try, he says, so there’s no shame in experimenting with the opportunities available to you.

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FCLC rises above the pandemic

Angie Wilt
Angie Wilt, during 209 /Jersey Mike’s Day of Giving event. (Submitted photo)

Angie Wilt began work as the FCLC’s program coordinator in 2018. She has had the opportunity to work with several tutors over the course of her career.

She says the council conducts classes that serve up to 6 people, but they also offer 1 on 1 tutoring.

The two main courses they teach are adult basic education and ESL/ELL (English as a second language). Tutors are all trained to accommodate for these courses. 95-97% of their students are ELL learners.

The FCLC also offers community workshops through partnerships with other organizations. Coyle Free Library also allows use of their space for the agency to continue services both online and in person. FCLC loves the library, since their staff supports the literacy council’s mission as passionately as they do.

However, the COVID pandemic placed the long history of the FCLC in jeopardy. In March of 2020, as many establishments were shut down during the course of the pandemic, the council lost their ability to conduct in person classes until recently.

Meeting the pandemic challenge

In the early weeks of the pandemic, FCLC was not initially ready to conduct virtual classes, but staff quickly rose to the challenge.

As volunteer tutors received training to conduct virtual classes, Tara Stewart (FCLC’s student support coordinator) reached out to provide barrier support for students experiencing technology inequity. Classes were back up and running within 10 days of the state’s mandatory shutdown.

Unfortunately, as a result of a variety of stressors caused by COVID-19 lockdowns, the number of new enrollments declined dramatically compared to previous years. Volunteerism also declined until only 8 tutors were left. To make things worse, FCLC almost lost its funding because of state budget cuts.

Luckily, the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) was able to reinstate funding toward the end of 2020. As a result, the FCLC managed to help students overcome digital inequity.

With the help of new laptops, FCLC is now able to reach out past county lines and help students improve their digital skills.

Additionally, all tutors now perform their initial and continuous training online, which is convenient for current volunteers and those who are interested in volunteering.

Since the FCLC’s reopening, enrollments have risen again while volunteerism remains low.


Upcoming ceremony

During the open house on 9/2, the FCLC will be providing tours of their space at Coyle Free Library.

The ribbon cutting ceremony will be at 1 p.m.

  • Participants are strongly encouraged to wear masks.
  • Door prizes and other treats will be given away, in addition to the unveiling of the council’s new logo.
  • Anyone interested in tutoring or learning about the program is welcome to attend the open house.
  • Potential new students are also welcome to look around and ask questions.

Another charity event for the FCLC called Puzzlemania is also scheduled for October.

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