HERO CENTRAL: Literacy Volunteers of America, Prince William Fights Illiteracy

12:05 PM, Oct 22, 2012   |    comments
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WOODBRIDGE, Va. (WUSA) --- Immigrants moving to America are faced with the challenge of learning how to speak, read, and write English. 

Literacy Volunteers of America, Prince William (LVA-PW) helps educate immigrants and others with the basic literacy skills needed in America. Classes are free after a $20 assessment.

Amevi Akakpo, an immigrant from Togo, West Africa, enrolled in LVA-PW, to help her speak English and get a job.

"When I came to this country the only thing I could say was Good morning. Even 'Hi,' I would ask my mom, 'They are saying what?'" said Akakpo.

LVA-PW developed in 1991 when a librarian saw the need for a literacy program in the area. The organization has grown as it serves over 600 students in 2011.

"In this economy we have had a lot of people come in whose jobs depend on improving their reading and writing skills or they need those skills to actually get a job," said Dr. Vicki Gross, Executive Director of LVA-PW.

Sonia Hoehn, a tutor with LVA-PW, admires the determination of these individuals to learn English.

"Most of the students we get here are probably better educated than I am in their country, but unfortunately that does not translate here for jobs and things like that. But I have been very fortunate with the students I have encountered," Hoehn said.

Aurang Zeb left Pakistan, because he faced religious persecution for being Catholic. With the help of LVA-PW, Zeb was able to get a job at 7-11.

"Yes it helped me with the application. She helped me find a job," said Zeb.

LVA-PW not only tutors immigrants but also English speakers who want to earn their GED or improve their general literacy skills.

"Fifteen percent of the Virginian population reads below a fourth grade level," Dr. Gross said.

"I think it takes a lot of strength to admit that you need help to read and write. And just know that we have 659 learners that we helped last year. You are not alone, we are here to help you. If it's a small goal or a long term goal, it doesn't matter, we are here."

NOTE: Gannett Foundation has given a grant to LVA-PW.

Written/Produced by: Elizabeth Jia


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