65,000 hours to help adults learn to read: Minnesota Literacy Council celebrates volunteers and learners


There were a lot of people in attendance at the Loft Literary Center on May 22; and as formal as it appeared, it was clear that the majority of the attendees had all known each other for quite some time. Learning and teaching together is a great way to build a healthy and diverse community and I couldn’t help but feel like I was on the outside looking in as volunteers and students from the Minnesota Literacy Council (MLC) gathered to celebrate the release of a new edition of Journeys, the organization’s annual compilation of writing by adult English learners.

At 6:00 p.m. the ceremony began, honoring those who received the Thomas M. Kraemer Memorial Education Grant. It was the first year that the grant had been presented at the Journeys event. The grant’s purpose is to assist the recipient in continuing education beyond the MLC program. There was some hint that the grant doesn’t always have to proper funding to be awarded every year and is not awarded to many, but the passion and dedication present throughout the evening are proof that the students receive the tools they need to be lifelong learners. 

There was certainly no shortage of passion and dedication for the Minnesota Literacy Council’s cause as the organization recognized over 20 volunteers for their service time. The volunteers had contributed hours ranging from 1,000 to 18,000 (nine years full time) and together all volunteers accumulated 65,000 hours of service to educating adult learners of different ages and cultural backgrounds. Many of the council’s students are there to become more proficient in English as their second language so that they can continue their education and career goals in America. Occasionally, those who graduate from the program often return as new volunteers or find other ways to use their skill to aid the progress of the program. One of the graduates was even awarded a packet of sponges that symbolically represented his great skill at absorbing knowledge; it was a very moving and lighthearted gesture.

The evening culminated in the presenting of personal stories written by some of the council’s students and it got me thinking about something that I had read on the Minnesota Literacy Council’s website. It states that “culturally relevant texts are an extremely important factor in a student’s engagement in learning” and I can’t think of anything more worth taking to heart. That those who teach would use the stories of their students to pass on valuable knowledge is a symbol of cultural appreciation; and to then be able to retell those stories in a language that you worked extremely hard to learn is most definitely worth celebrating.

Also in the Daily Planet, read stories by contributors to the 2012 edition of Journeys.

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