Tutors help make a difference in SW Minnesota

MARSHALL – The Literacy Volunteers of Southwest Minnesota is a relatively new organization that finally got its feet off the ground this past January.

Its mission is “to support the literacy goals of adults living in Southwest Minnesota through quality tutoring, community partnerships and advocacy.”

Charlotte Harris-Hoffstrom is in charge of the program in Marshall.

“We are purely volunteer-based and follow the Minnesota Department of Education guidelines as well as Pro-Literacy guidelines, which is the largest national adult literacy organization,” she said. “We aren’t just making this stuff up as we go,” said Harris-Hoffstrom.

Many of the volunteers of the organization act as tutors for adult learners in the area. Each tutor is required to attend the orientation and 12 hours of training.

The next tutor orientation is today from noon-1 p.m..

Anyone over 16 who is not enrolled in high school can take advantage of the help provided by these volunteers in the subjects of reading, writing, speaking, basic math and basic computer skills.

“We have accumulated 17 tutors since February when we first started recruiting and our numbers continue to grow. As of right now, we have eight learners and five that are waiting to be matched up,” said Harris-Hoffstrom.

Harris-Hoffstrom and Candace Thomas, the volunteer coordinator, have to have dedicated people to act as teachers for these adult learners who may otherwise struggle in their adult education classes, college, or basic life skills.

“I like that I get to play matchmaker when pairing up tutors and learners. These people spend about two hours a week with each other so their schedule, subject interest, personality and preferences need to be compatible,” said Harris-Hoffstrom. “Often times it is difficult for a learner to open up if they have had bad experiences with education in the past. Every adult is unique and we are here to help them to become more literate and prepare for the next step in their journey.”

The Literary Volunteers of Southwest Minnesota does not act alone. It’s partnered with the United Way, the library and the school district. The only office the organization has is a cubicle at MECLA, which the school has provided.

“Since we are established in Marshall, we are now planning our expansion into Redwood Falls. We serve Lyon, Lincoln and Redwood counties and our goal is to continue to expand throughout the area,” Harris Hoffstrom said.

Adult learners can be anyone who is interested in learning more. Typically, there are three groups that Marshall’s volunteer group has seen: English Language Learners, those interested in learning how to write for college and learners interested in studying for their GED.

“The problem that we see is that a lot of adults get stuck without an education, so we do our best to help. Everything we do is free and safe. We do not discriminate in any way,” said Harris-Hoffstrom, who noted that the Literacy Volunteers of Southwest Minnesota are always looking for more volunteers and learners.